Disaster Relief

Description

Revenue and Taxation Code section 170 provides that if a calamity such as fire, earthquake, or flooding damages or destroys your property, you may be eligible for property tax relief if the county where your property is located has adopted an ordinance that allows property tax relief to owners of damaged or destroyed property, without fault from the assessee. In such cases, the county assessor will immediately reappraise the property to reflect its damaged condition. In addition, when it is rebuilt in a like or similar manner, the property will retain its prior value (Proposition 13) for tax purposes. All California counties, except for Fresno County, have adopted an ordinance for disaster relief.

To qualify for property tax relief, you must file a claim with the county assessor within the time specified in your county ordinance, or 12 months from the date of damage or destruction, whichever is later. The loss estimate must be at least $10,000 of current market value to qualify the property for this relief. The property will be reassessed according to its damaged state and property taxes will be adjusted accordingly.

This property tax relief is available to owners of real property, business equipment and fixtures, orchards or other agricultural groves, and to owners of aircraft, boats, and certain manufactured homes – it is not available to property that is not assessable, such as state licensed manufactured homes or household furnishings.

Resources

Chronological List of Governor-Proclaimed Disasters

Disaster Relief Quick Reference Chart

Revenue and Taxation Code Property Type Type of Relief Available Type of Disaster
Section 70 Real property only New construction exclusion Any disaster or calamity
Section 170 All property types New construction exclusion Governor-proclaimed; Any disaster or calamity
Section 69 All property types Base year transfer Governor-proclaimed
Section 69.3 Principal place of residence Inter-county Base year transfer Governor-proclaimed
Section 69.5 Principal place of residence —over 55 or physically disabled Base year transfer Any disaster or calamity
Sections 172 & 172.1 Manufactured home Base year transfer Governor-proclaimed
Section 5825 Manufactured home New construction exclusion; Base year transfer Any disaster or calamity
Section 194 Real property and manufactured homes Property tax deferral Governor-proclaimed

Letters To Assessors (LTAs)

Letters To Assessors(LTAs) The LTAs provide an ongoing advisory service for county assessors and others interested in the property tax system in California. The letters present Board staff's interpretation of rules, laws, and court decisions on property tax assessment. The following LTAs pertain to assessment or procedural issues involving disaster relief in California.

Title Letter to Assessor
Application of New Construction Exclusion 79/39, 79/207, 81/123, 82/12, 82/49
Assessment Appeal Filing Deadline Extension 2001/063, 2002/040
Base Year Value Transfer 87/23, 92/45, 94/49, 95/16, 97/58, 2006/015, 2006/052, 2010/010, 2012/012
Comparability Standards 87/23, 92/45
Disabled Persons (Proposition 110) 2002/016, 2006/010
Disabled Veterans' Exemption 2008/082
Fault 96/59
Filing Deadline Extension 2001/077
Fire Prevention Fee 2014/071
Frost Damage 91/13, 92/09, 99/52, 2007/057
Governor-Proclaimed Disasters (list of) 2000/066, 2006/015
Homeowners' Exemption 2004/069, 2005/073, 2006/049, 2007/051, 2008/063, 2009/053, 2011/004
Intercounty Transfer of Base Year Value (Proposition 171) 94/49, 95/16, 2012/012
Manufactured Homes 82/139, 88/72, 99/87
New Construction Exclusion 79/39, 79/207, 81/123, 82/12, 82/49
Northridge Earthquake, Extension of Time Limits 97/58
Ordinances for Intercounty Transfers 95/06, 2001/009, 2003/057, 2003/074, 2009/008, 2014/040
Persons Over Age 55 (Propositions 60/90) 2002/016, 2006/010
Property Tax Deferral 86/33, 87/98
Proposition 50 (Intracounty Transfers) 87/23, 92/45, 2006/052, 2012/012
Proposition 171 (Intercounty Transfers) 94/49, 95/16, 2009/008, 2012/012
Removal of Property 86/09
Repair, Restoration, or Reconstruction 95/31
Replacement Property 87/23, 94/49, 97/58, 2006/052
Restricted Access 2001/102
September 11 Events 2001/063, 2001/077, 2001/102, 2002/009, 2002/037, 2006/031
Substantially Damaged or Destroyed 2012/012
Supplemental Assessments 83/128, 85/75, 86/09, 95/31
Trees and Vines 91/13, 92/09, 99/52, 2007/057, 2008/084

Annotated Legal Opinions

Annotated Legal Opinions Annotated legal opinions are summaries of the conclusions reached in selected legal rulings of California State Board of Equalization counsel. The following legal opinions pertain to questions involving disaster relief:

Annotated Legal Opinion Title
200.0400(C) Base Year Value Transfer – Disaster Relief
360.0000 Disaster Relief

Forms

Since the form (and its title) differs from county to county, you must contact your county assessor for an application for reassessment for property damaged or destroyed by misfortune or calamity. In some cases, the form may be downloaded from the county's website. You may find your assessor's contact information by visiting the Listing of County Assessors page.

To qualify for property tax relief under section 170, you must file a calamity claim form with your county assessor's office within 12 months from the date the property was damaged or destroyed.

After an application is processed by the county assessor's office, a notice of proposed new assessment will be sent to you. After you return this notice to the county assessor's office, a separate supplemental refund will be made based on the amount of reduction. The refund will be prorated from the date of destruction to the end of the fiscal year. You must still pay your regular tax bill.

FAQs

1. My home was damaged by a fire. What do I do? Where do I start?

If your property has been damaged by a calamity, you need to file a disaster relief claim with the county assessor. This will allow your current property taxes to be reduced for that portion of the property damaged or destroyed. This reduction will be from the first of the month in which the damage occurred, and will remain in effect until the property is rebuilt or repaired. Some county assessors have the authority to reduce a property's value for damage without a disaster relief claim. Please check with your county assessor to verify whether a claim is required.

In addition, if your property has been substantially damaged or destroyed in a Governor-proclaimed disaster and you have either filed a disaster relief claim with the county assessor to reduce your taxes or have been granted disaster relief by the assessor, you may file a claim to postpone the next installment of property taxes that occurs immediately after the disaster. If you file a "property tax deferral claim" with the county assessor before the next property tax installment payment date, that payment will be postponed without penalty or interest until the county assessor has reassessed the property and you receive a corrected tax bill.

To qualify for deferral, for property receiving a homeowners' exemption, "substantial disaster damage" means damage amounting to at least 10 percent of its fair market value or $10,000 whichever is less. For all other property, the damage must be at least 20 percent of value. However, tax deferral is not available where property taxes are paid through impound accounts.

2. My property and/or home were damaged and the Governor declared a disaster in my area. What type of relief is available?

If your property has been substantially damaged or destroyed in a Governor-proclaimed disaster and you have filed a disaster relief claim with the county assessor to reduce your taxes, you may rebuild in a like or similar manner and your previous base year value will be reinstated. Or, you may choose to buy another comparable property and transfer your base year value to the new property. You will not be able to do both.

Can I buy another house in the same county and transfer the base year value of my damaged house to my new house?

Yes, section 69 provides for this relief to you under certain circumstances:

The damaged property must amount to more than 50 percent of its full cash value immediately prior to the disaster. This applies to any type of real property, not just residences.

The property must be transferred to a comparable replacement property, acquired or newly constructed, within the same county and within five years after the disaster.

Comparability is crucial – the replacement property must be similar in size, utility, and function to the property which it replaces.

The replacement property must not exceed 120 percent of the full cash value of the property damaged or destroyed. Any amount of the full cash value of the replacement property that exceeds 120 percent of the full cash value of the damaged property (immediately prior to the damage) shall be added to the adjusted base year value of the damaged property. The sum of these amounts shall become the replacement property's replacement base year value.

Please contact your county assessor's office for an application.

Can I buy another house in a different county and transfer the base year value of my damaged house to my new house?

Under section 69.3, a principal residence that was damaged in an area that was a Governor-proclaimed disaster that occurred on or after October 20, 1991 may have its base year value transferred to a replacement residence in a different county only if the county has adopted an ordinance that allows such taxable value transfers. As of August 2014, there are ten counties that have such an ordinance: Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Modoc, Orange, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, and Ventura. The replacement residence must meet the following criteria:

It must be purchased within three years of the disaster.

Its market value must be of equal or lesser value than the market value of the damaged property immediately prior to the date of the disaster. Depending upon the year in which the replacement property is purchased, the market value of the damaged property is adjusted up to 115 percent when comparing with the replacement property.

It must be eligible for the homeowners' or disabled veterans' exemption (your principal place of residence).

Claims for this exclusion must be filed with the county assessor within three years of the purchase of the replacement property.

3. After my property is rebuilt or repaired following the damage, will my property taxes be increased over what they were before?

No. Property owners will retain their previous factored base year value if the house is rebuilt in a like or similar manner, regardless of the actual cost of construction. However, any new square footage or extras, such as additional baths, will be added to the base year value at its full market value.

4. Our home was damaged from a forest fire last September and we had to move out while it is being repaired.  Are we still allowed the homeowner's exemption even though we have not returned to our house as of January 1?

Yes. Temporary absence from a dwelling for repairs made necessary by a natural disaster will not result in the loss of your homeowner's exemption as long as you have not established permanent housing elsewhere.