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 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 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.
To qualify for property tax relief under section 170, you must file a claim with the county assessor within 12 months from the date of damage or destruction, or the time specified in your county ordinance, whichever is later. There must be at least a $10,000 estimated loss of current market value to qualify the property for this relief.
After an application is processed by the county assessor's office, a notice of proposed new assessment will be sent to you. Subsequently, a separate supplemental refund will be made based on the amount of reduction. The refund will be prorated from the month in which the disaster occurred to the end of the fiscal year or completion of new construction, whichever is first. You do not have to file a separate claim for refund. However, you must still pay your regular tax bill.
The form and its title differ from county to county; therefore, 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.
Disaster Relief Quick Reference Chart
While section 170 is one form of relief that may be available when a disaster strikes, depending on the nature of your property, you may be eligible for additional relief. The chart below lists additional relief that may be available to you based on property type and the type of disaster that occurred. The listed Revenue and Taxation Code will provide the requirements of each relief option.
|Type of Relief Available||Property Type||Type of Disaster||Revenue and Taxation Code|
|New construction exclusion||Real property only||Any disaster or calamity||Section 70|
|New construction exclusion||All property types||Governor-proclaimed; Any disaster or calamity||Section 170|
|Base year transfer within same county||All property types||Governor-proclaimed||Section 69|
|Base year transfer to another county||Principal place of residence||Governor-proclaimed||Section 69.3|
|Base year transfer||Principal place of residence —over 55 or physically disabled||Any disaster or calamity||Section 69.5|
|Base year transfer||Manufactured home (license fee or property tax)||Governor-proclaimed||Section 172 & 172.1|
|New construction exclusion; Base year transfer||Manufactured home (property tax only)||Any disaster or calamity||Section 5825|
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|
|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, 2017/044, 2018/026|
|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, 2018/026|
|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|
|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 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:
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's office 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, you may be eligible for a reinstatement of your home’s previous base year value. To be eligible, you must file a disaster relief claim with the county assessor to reduce your taxes and rebuild the property in a like or similar manner. Alternatively, 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 June 7, 2018, there are 11 counties that have such an ordinance: Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Modoc, Orange, San Diego, 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.
5. Our home was destroyed in a Governor-declared disaster, and we would like to move to another county. What counties accept a base year value transfer for Governor-declared disasters?
As of January 16, 2020, the following 12 counties have enacted ordinances that allow a base year value transfer for a principal residence that was substantially damaged or destroyed by a Governor-declared disaster:
- Contra Costa
- San Francisco
- Santa Clara
- Los Angeles
- San Diego