As a law firm specializing in real estate law, we’ve heard from many California homeowners who were shocked to see a big increase in their home’s valuation in their most recent property tax assessment.
One couple’s story stood out to us — they received their California property tax assessment in the mail and were stunned to learn that their home’s valuation had gone up by 125%. They didn’t believe their house had appreciated that much and thought the county assessor had overvalued their property, causing them to pay more taxes than necessary.
At the time, the couple didn’t know how to contest the unfair and inaccurate property tax assessment.
After advising them to appeal and guiding them through the process, we realized that many homeowners are unaware of their right to appeal an unexpectedly high property tax assessment or may not know how to do it properly.
That’s why we decided to write this blog post to show you how to challenge a property tax assessment in California, and possibly save money by not having to pay more in property taxes.
Step-By-Step Guide to the CA Property Tax Assessment Appeal Process
Local governments rely heavily on property taxes for revenue, but many homeowners find them to be a significant financial burden.
If you believe that your California property tax assessment is inflated, follow the steps below, and you may be able to appeal it and lower your tax bill.
Please be aware that if you disagree with the local assessor’s assessment, you must file your California property tax assessment appeal within the regular appeals filing period, which begins on July 2 and depending on your California county, ends either on September 15 or November 30 of each year; otherwise, your property assessment will stand.
Gather Evidence for Your California Property Tax Assessment Appeal
Every year, a team of assessors from your local government will assess the value of your home, often by July 1, and mail it to you.
These assessors are unable to visit every home in your city or county annually, so they typically use comparables, or the amount that properties like yours sold for in the previous year, to determine your home’s value. This will consider your home’s location, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms it has, and any additional features it might have, such as a pool, fenced-in yard, or a separate housing unit.
The California property tax assessment sent to you will also reflect improvements to your home – for example, a recently built sunroom or outdoor deck.
On receiving your California property tax assessment, if you feel that your home’s assessed value far exceeds its market price, you have to gather evidence that supports your claim that your home is overvalued. This evidence can include recent sales of similar properties in your area, any physical defects or damage to the property, or changes in the neighborhood real estate market that might reduce your home’s worth.
The more proof you acquire, the more convincing a case you may make to the local assessor that they made a mistake in assessing your home.
To obtain data to support your California property tax assessment appeal, consider working with an experienced local real estate agent or hiring a licensed home appraiser to independently assess and value your home.
Contact Your County Assessor’s Office
Before starting the formal process of appealing your California property tax assessment, speak to your county assessor’s office first.
When you get in touch with them, they should be able to explain to you how they determined the worth of your property and address any concerns you may have about their assessment. During your discussions, you can also provide them with the supporting documentation you’ve acquired to show why you think your property is worth less than their estimated value, which they’ll review.
If they discover that they erred, they may lower the assessed value of your property to make up for it, and you don’t need to appeal your California property tax assessment.
File a California Property Tax Assessment Appeal Application
You can start the legal process of having your California property tax assessment formally reviewed if you’re unable to resolve your home assessment issue following discussions with your county assessor.
To do this, you must fill out the Application for Changed Assessment form, which is available online or at the Clerk of the Board offices in your county. The form will ask for a description of your property, your estimate of its value, and why you believe your local county assessment is incorrect. Make sure to fill out the form completely and accurately.
At this point, you should consider hiring an experienced real estate attorney to help you file your appeal, because simple mistakes could deny you your legal right to contest your California property tax assessment.
Attend a Hearing
If your California Property Tax Assessment Appeal Application is approved, you’ll be informed of a hearing date at least 45 days before its scheduled date.
A three-person Assessment Appeals Board will preside over the hearing. The board members serve as an impartial panel to settle disagreements over property assessment and usually consist of CPAs, lawyers, licensed real estate agents, or certified real estate appraisers.
The responsibility of establishing that the county assessor misvalued your property falls on you or your attorney, if you decide to retain one, during the hearing. The county assessor will also provide information to support their valuation of your property.
After hearing your case, the Assessment Appeals Board can lower or raise your home’s assessed value. They can make their decision known at the hearing or days later after having private deliberations. The appeal board’s clerk will send you a written decision if a ruling is not made public at your hearing. The Assessment Appeals Board has two years from the day a California property tax assessment appeal application is filed to hear the appeal and make a decision, but usually, the appeals process takes a few months.
If you disagree with the decision of the Assessment Appeals Board, you cannot submit another application to have your California property tax assessment matter heard again before the board. Their ruling is final. However, you do have the option of challenging the Assessment Appeals Board’s decision at a superior court.
Keep in mind that you must still pay any property taxes owed to the county on time, even if you’re appealing your California property tax assessment. Regardless of the outcome of your case, you’ll be penalized if you don’t do this.
You’ll receive a tax refund from the county administration if you can have your California property tax assessment reduced.
Gallagher Krich, APC: Experienced San Diego, CA, Real Estate Attorneys
The California property tax assessment appeal process can be complicated and time-consuming, especially if you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of the legal system. Fortunately, with the right guidance and expertise, you can make the process easier and more successful.
The attorneys at Gallagher Krich, APC, have years of real estate law experience and would love to help you just as we’ve helped countless California homeowners – whether you’re a new property owner or a seasoned homeowner who’s simply unsure how to handle a property tax assessment problem.
Contact us today at (858) 926-5797 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a FREE consultation on your case.