Laws, Regulations & Annotations

Property Taxes Law Guide – Revision 2013
 

Other Code Provisions

Business and Professions Code

DIVISION 7. GENERAL BUSINESS REGULATIONS

PART 3. REPRESENTATIONS TO THE PUBLIC

CHAPTER 1. Advertising

Article 2 Particular Offenses

Chapter 1. Advertising

Article 2. Particular Offenses

17533.6. Solicitations implying governmental connection. (a) It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, or association that is a nongovernmental entity to solicit information, or to solicit the purchase of or payment for a product or service, or to solicit the contribution of funds or membership fees, by means of a mailing, electronic message, or Internet Web site that contains a seal, emblem, insignia, trade or brand name, or any other term symbol, or content that reasonably could be interpreted or construed as implying any federal, state, or local government connection, approval, or endorsement, unless the requirements of paragraph (1) or (2) have been met, as follows:

(1) The nongovernmental entity has an expressed connection with, or the approval or endorsement of, a federal, state, or local government entity, if permitted by other provisions of law.

(2) The solicitation meets all of the following requirements:

(A) The solicitation conspicuously displays the following disclosure on the front and back of every page of the solicitation:

"THIS PRODUCT OR SERVICE HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED OR ENDORSED BY ANY GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY, AND THIS OFFER IS NOT BEING MADE BY AN AGENCY OF THE GOVERNMENT."

(B) In the case of a mailed solicitation, the front of the envelope, outside cover, or wrapper in which the matter is mailed conspicuously displays the following disclosure:

"THIS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT."

(C) The disclosure in subparagraph (A) shall be displayed conspicuously, as provided in subdivision (d), and immediately below each portion of the solicitation that reasonably could be construed to specify an amount due and payable by the recipient. The disclosure in subparagraph (B) shall be displayed conspicuously, as provided in subdivision (d), and immediately below the area of the envelope, outside cover, or wrapper that is used for a return address. The disclosures in subparagraphs (A) and (B) shall not be preceded, followed, or surrounded by symbols, terms, or other content that result in the disclosures not being conspicuous or that introduce, modify, qualify, or explain the text of those disclosures.

(D) The solicitation does not use a title or trade or brand name that reasonably could be interpreted or construed as implying any federal, state, or local government connection, approval, or endorsement, including, but not limited to, use of the term "agency," "administrative," "assessor," "board," "bureau," "collector," "commission," "committee," "department," "division," "recorder," "unit," "federal," "state," "county," "city," or "municipal," or the name or division of any government agency.

(E) The solicitation does not specify a date or time period when payment to the soliciting nongovernmental person, firm, corporation, or association is due, including, but not limited to, use of the terms "due date," "due now," "remit by," "remit immediately," "payment due," "pay now," "pay immediately," or "pay no later than," unless the solicitation displays, in the same sentence as the date or time period specified, how the information being solicited will be used, a description of the product or service that is to be provided and to what government agency it shall be rendered, or how the solicited funds or membership fees will be used, as applicable.

(F) The solicitation does not state or imply that payment to any person, firm, corporation, or association that is not a government entity is mandatory or required by law, or state or imply that penalties, fines, or consequences will occur if payment is not made to the soliciting nongovernmental person, firm, corporation, or association.

(b) Notwithstanding Section 17534, any violation of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(c) Any person who is harmed as a result of a violation of this section shall be entitled to recover, in addition to any other available remedies, damages in an amount equal to three times the amount solicited.

(d) For purposes of this section, "conspicuous" or "conspicuously" means displayed apart from other print on the page, envelope, outside cover, or wrapper and in not less than 12-point boldface font type in capital letters that is at least 2-point boldface font type sizes larger than the next largest print on the page, envelope, outside cover, or wrapper and in contrasting type, layout, font, or color in a manner that clearly calls attention to the language.

History.—Added by Stats. 1993, Ch. 348 (AB 532), in effect January 1, 1994. Amended by Stats. 1997, Ch. 249 (AB 1178), in effect January 1, 1998. Stats. 2002, Ch. 319 (SB 1240), in effect January 1, 2003, added ", electronic message, or Internet Web site" after "of a mailing" in the first sentence of the first paragraph, substituted "type" for "printing" after "color with other" in the first sentence of paragraph (1) and added "In the case of a mailed solicitation," before "the envelope or" in the first sentence of paragraph (2) of subdivision (b). Stats. 2008, Ch. 256 (AB 2919), in effect January 1, 2009, designated the former first paragraph as subdivision (a) and substituted "paragraph (1) or (2)" for "subdivision (a) or (b)" after "the requirements of" in the first sentence therein; designated former subdivisions (a) and (b) as paragraphs (1) and (2), respectively, of subdivision (a) and designated former paragraphs (1) and (2) as subparagraphs (A) and (B), respectively, of paragraph (2) therein; and added subdivisions (b) and (c). Stats. 2009, Ch. 140 (AB 1164), in effect January 1, 2010, substituted "GOVERNMENTAL" for "GOVERNMENT" after "BY ANY" in the second sentence of subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) and substituted "governmental" for "government" after "or local" in the first sentence of paragraph (1) of subdivision (c). Stats. 2011, Ch. 269 (AB 75), in effect January 1, 2012, added "emblem," after "a seal", substituted "symbol, or content" for "or, symbol" after "other term", and substituted "federal, state," for "state" after "implying any" in the first sentence of the first paragraph, substituted "federal, state," for "state" after "of, a" in the first sentence of paragraph (1), substituted "all" for "both" after "solicitation meets" in the first sentence of paragraph (2), substituted "conspicuously displays the following disclosure on the front and back of every page of the solicitation" for "bears on its face, in conspicuous and legible type in contrast by typography, layout, or color with other type on its face, the following notice" after "The solicitation" in the first sentence of subparagraph (A), substituted "front of the envelope, outside cover," for "envelope or outside cover" after "solicitation, the" and substituted "conspicuously displays the following disclosure" for "bears on its face in capital letters and in conspicuous and legible type, the following notice:" after "is mailed" in the first sentence of subparagraph (B) and added subparagraphs (C), (D), (E), and (F) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (a); deleted former subdivisions (b) and (c) which provided that "(b) Except as provided in subdivision (c), any business that solicits the purchase of, or payment for, a service by means of an unsolicited mailing that offers to assist the recipient in dealing with a state or local governmental agency shall do both of the following:

(1) State on the envelope and in the mailing that the business is not a governmental agency and is not associated with the governmental agency referenced.

(2) Include in the mailing the contact information for the governmental agency referenced.

(c) Subdivision (b) shall not apply if either of the following requirements has been met:

(1) The business has an expressed connection with, or the approval or endorsement of, a state or local governmental entity, if permitted by other provisions of law.

(2) The business has an "established business relationship," as defined in Section 1798.83 of the Civil Code, with the recipient."; and added subdivisions (b), (c), and (d).

Note:—Section 2 of the Stats. 2002, Ch. 319 (SB 1240), provided that no reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.

Note.—Section 11 of Stats. 2011, Ch. 269 (AB 75), provided that no reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.

17537.8. Solicitations; homeowners' exemption. (a) It is unlawful for any person to make any untrue or misleading statements in any manner in connection with the offering or performance of a homeowners' exemption filing service. For the purpose of this section, an "untrue or misleading statement" includes, but is not limited to, any representation that any of the following is true:

(1) A fee is required in order to receive the homeowners' exemption.

(2) The offeror of the homeowners' exemption filing service has a file or record covering a person to whom a solicitation is made.

(3) The offeror of the homeowners' exemption filing service is, or is affiliated with, any governmental entity. A violation of this paragraph includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(A) The misleading use of any governmental seal, emblem, or other similar symbol.

(B) The use of a business name including the word "homeowners' exemption" or "exemption" and the word "assessor," "auditor," "agency," "bureau," "department," "division," "federal," "state," "county," "city," or "municipal," or the name of any city, county, city and county, or any governmental entity.

(C) The use of an envelope that simulates an envelope containing a government check, tax bill, or government notice or an envelope that otherwise has the capacity to be confused with, or mistaken for, an envelope sent by a governmental entity.

(D) The use of an envelope or outside cover or wrapper in which a solicitation is mailed that does not bear on its face in capital letters and in conspicuous and legible type the following notice: "THIS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT."

(b) (1) It is unlawful to offer to perform a homeowners' exemption filing service without making the following disclosure: "THIS HOMEOWNERS' EXEMPTION FILING SERVICE IS NOT ASSOCIATED WITH ANY GOVERNMENT AGENCY. YOU CAN OBTAIN AND FILE A HOMEOWNERS' EXEMPTION CLAIM FORM, AT NO COST, WITH THE COUNTY ASSESSOR'S OFFICE."

(2) The disclosures specified in paragraph (1) shall be placed at the top of each page of every advertisement or promotional material disseminated by an offeror of a homeowners' exemption filing service and shall be printed in 12-point boldface type enclosed in a box formed by a heavy line.

(3) The disclosure specified in paragraph (1) shall be recited at the beginning of every oral solicitation and every broadcast advertisement and shall be delivered in printed form as prescribed by paragraph (2) before the time each person who responds to the oral solicitation or broadcast advertisement is obligated to pay for the service.

(c) No offeror of a homeowners' exemption filing service shall charge, demand, or collect any money until after the homeowners' exemption is filed with the county assessor. The total amount charged, demanded, or collected by an offeror of a homeowners' exemption filing service shall not exceed twenty-five dollars ($25).

(d) For the purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:

(1) "Homeowners' exemption filing service" means any service performed or offered to be performed for compensation in connection with the preparation or completion of a homeowners' exemption claim or in connection with the assistance in any manner of another person to prepare or complete a homeowners' exemption claim.

(2) "Homeowners' exemption" has the meaning described in Section 218 of the Revenue and Taxation Code.

History.—Added by Stats. 1997, Ch. 249 (AB 1178), in effect January 1, 1998.

17537.9. Solicitations; assessment appeals. (a) It is unlawful for any person to make any untrue or misleading statements in any manner in connection with the offering or performance of an assessment reduction filing service. For the purposes of this section, an "untrue or misleading statement" includes, but is not limited to, any representation that any of the following is true:

(1) The preparation of a request for review or an assessment appeal application will result in a guaranteed reduction of property taxes.

(2) A fee is required in order for the county to process a reduction of a property's assessed value where the county has no applicable fee.

(3) The offeror of the assessment reduction filing service will be physically present to represent the person to whom a solicitation is made before county assessor staff, an assessment appeals board, county board of equalization, or an assessment hearing officer, unless the fee includes this service.

(4) The offeror of the assessment reduction filing service will prepare or complete informal assessor review data or prepare or complete the application in full, with the exception of the property owner's signature, on behalf of the person to whom a solicitation is made, unless the fee includes this service.

(5) The offeror of the assessment reduction filing service has a file or record covering a person to whom a solicitation is made.

(6) The offeror of the assessment reduction filing service is, or is affiliated with, any governmental entity. A violation of this paragraph includes, but is not limited to, the following:

(A) The misleading use of any governmental seal, emblem, or other similar symbol.

(B) The use of a business name including the word "appeal" or "tax" and the word "agency," "assessor," "board," "bureau," "commission," "department," "division," "federal," "state," "county," "city," or "municipal," or the name of any city, county, city and county, or any governmental entity.

(C) The use of an envelope that simulates an envelope containing a government check, tax bill, or government notice or an envelope that otherwise has the capacity to be confused with, or mistaken for, an envelope sent by a governmental entity.

(D) The use of an envelope or outside cover or wrapper in which a solicitation is mailed that does not bear on its face in capital letters and in conspicuous and legible type the following notice:

"THIS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT."

(7) A late fee is required if the person to whom the solicitation is sent fails to respond to the offeror of the assessment reduction filing service by a date stated in the solicitation.

(b) (1) It is unlawful to offer to perform an assessment reduction filing service without making the following disclosure:

"THIS ASSESSMENT REDUCTION FILING SERVICE IS NOT ASSOCIATED WITH ANY GOVERNMENT AGENCY. IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THE ASSESSED VALUE OF YOUR PROPERTY, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO AN INFORMAL ASSESSMENT REVIEW, AT NO COST, BY CONTACTING THE ASSESSOR'S OFFICE DIRECTLY. IF YOU AND THE ASSESSOR CANNOT AGREE TO THE VALUE OF THE PROPERTY OR IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO CONTACT THE ASSESSOR YOU CAN OBTAIN AND FILE AN APPLICATION FOR CHANGED ASSESSMENT WITH THE COUNTY BOARD OF EQUALIZATION OR ASSESSMENT APPEALS BOARD ON YOUR OWN BEHALF. AN APPEALS BOARD HAS THE AUTHORITY TO RAISE PROPERTY VALUES (BUT IN NO CASE HIGHER THAN THE PROPOSITION 13 PROTECTED VALUE) AS WELL AS TO LOWER PROPERTY VALUES."

(2) The disclosures specified in paragraph (1) shall be placed at the top of each page of every advertisement or promotional material disseminated by an offeror of an assessment reduction filing service and shall be printed in not less than 12-point boldface font type that is at least 2-point boldface font type sizes larger than the next largest print on the page and enclosed in a box formed by a heavy line.

(3) The disclosure specified in paragraph (1) shall be recited at the beginning of every oral solicitation and every broadcast advertisement and shall be delivered in printed form as prescribed by paragraph (2) before the time each person who responds to the oral solicitation or broadcast advertisement is obligated to pay for the service.

(c) (1) No offeror of an assessment reduction filing service shall charge, demand, or collect any money in connection with a request for review until after the request is filed with the assessor.

(2) No offeror of an assessment reduction filing service shall charge, demand, or collect any money in connection with an assessment appeal application until after the application is filed with the clerk of the assessment appeals board.

(d) For the purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:

(1) "Assessment reduction filing service" means any service performed or offered to be performed for compensation in connection with the preparation or completion of an application or request of any kind for reduction in assessment of residential property or in connection with the assistance in any manner of another person to either (A) prepare or complete an application or request of any kind for reduction in assessment of residential property or (B) provide comparable sales information in connection with an application or request for reduction in assessment of residential property.

(2) "Assessment appeal application" has the meaning described in Section 1603 of the Revenue and Taxation Code.

(e) (1) It is unlawful for an offeror of an assessment reduction filing service to file a request or application of any kind for reduction in assessment without first obtaining a written authorization from the property owner.

(2) A true and correct copy of the written authorization shall be submitted with any request or application for reduction in assessment. The offeror shall maintain the original written authorization for a period of three years and shall make it available for inspection and copying within 24 hours of a request without a warrant to law enforcement, the Attorney General, district attorney, or city attorney.

History.—Added by Stats. 1997, Ch. 249 (AB 1178), in effect January 1, 1998. Stats. 2009, Ch. 496 (AB 992), in effect January 1, 2010, substituted "reduction" for "appeal application" after "an assessment" in the first sentence of subdivision (a), added "a request for review or" after "preparation of" and deleted "of a stated amount" after "property taxes" in the first sentence of paragraph (1), added "where the county has no applicable fee" after "property's value" in the first sentence of paragraph (2), substituted "reduction" for "appeal application" after "the assessment", added "county assessor staff," after "made before", and added "an" after "equalization, or" in the first sentence of paragraph (3), substituted "reduction" for "assessment appeal" after "the assessment" and added "informal assessor review data or prepare or complete" after the first "or complete" in the first sentence of paragraph (4), substituted "reduction" for "appeal application" after "the assessment" in the first sentence of paragraph (5), substituted "reduction" for "appeal application" after "the assessment" in the first sentence of paragraph (6), and added paragraph (7) thereto; substituted "reduction" for "appeal application" after "an assessment" in the first sentence of paragraph (1) of subdivision (b), and substituted "REDUCTION" for "APPEAL APPLICATION" after "THIS ASSESSMENT" in the first sentence of the disclosure, substituted "FOR CHANGED ASSESSMENT WITH THE COUNTY BOARD OF EQUALIZATION OR ASSESSMENT APPEALS BOARD" for ", AT NO COST," after "FILE AN APPLICATION" in the third sentence of the disclosure, and substituted "reduction" for "appeal application" after "an assessment" in paragraph (2) thereof; designated the former first sentence of subdivision (c) as paragraph (1) thereof and substituted "reduction" for "appeal" after "an assessment", added "in connection with a request for review" after "any money", substituted "request" for "assessment appeal application" after "after the", and substituted "assessor" for "clerk of the assessment appeals board" after "filed with the" in the first sentence therein, and added paragraph (2) thereto; substituted "reduction" for "appeal application" after "Assessment", added "or request of any kind" after "of an application", added "either (A)" after "person to", added "or request of any kind" after "complete an application" and added "or (B) provide comparable sales information in connection with an application or request for reduction in assessment of residential property" after "residential property" in the first sentence, and deleted the former second sentences, which provided that " "Assessment appeal application filing service" does not include any service performed by a person who actively advocates, in person or by written and oral communications, on the behalf of the person to whom a solicitation is made before the assessment appeals board or the assessor's office.", and deleted the former third sentence, which provided that "Actively advocate" does not include the act of providing the person to whom a solicitation is made with a list of comparable sales of residential property." in paragraph (1) of subdivision (d); and added subdivision (e). Stats. 2011, Ch. 269 (AB 75), in effect January 1, 2012, substituted "purposes" for "purpose" after "For the" in the second sentence of the first paragraph, added "assessed" after "a property's" in the first sentence of paragraph (2), and substituted """agency,", "assessor", "board," "bureau," "commission"," for " "assessor," "agency," "bureau" after "the word" in the first sentence of subparagraph (B) of paragraph (6) of subdivision (a) and substituted "not less than 12-point boldface font type that is at least 2-point boldface font type sizes larger than the next largest print on the page and" for "12-point boldface type" after "printed in" in the first sentence of paragraph (2) of subdivision (b).

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