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.
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.