Residents may qualify for property tax relief

The Rye Fire burns along the east side of Interstate 5, one of several major fires that recently ravaged Southern California. Austin Dave/The Signal

In the wake of a recent round of fires in the Santa Clarita Valley, residents may be able to seek some financial solace.

If your home has been destroyed due to a natural disaster, Los Angeles County may be able to help you get a temporary tax break, county officials said.

If property damage estimates are up to $10,000 of current market value, county residents have 12 months from the date of destruction to file for a corrected tax bill.

Rob Kalonian, spokesman with the Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor, said the county sends appraisers in the area to assess property damage after significant disasters, like wildfires.

“They take a look and let the owner know how much there is in damage, and this value can be taken off their home’s original assessed total,” he said.

After the Rye Fire in December for example, the county recorded 120 structures damaged in the Santa Clarita Valley eligible for the refund, Kalonian said. At the time, county staff in the district distributed applications for property tax relief.

The Rye Fire burned over 6,000 acres in December 2017 over several days. During a period of heavy winds, dry weather and red flag warnings, a spark from a downed power line started the fire, forcing residents across parts of the Santa Clarita Valley to evacuate.

If taxpayers have already paid their taxes for the year, the appraiser’s reduction can land them a tax refund consistent with the assessed damage. Otherwise, if taxes aren’t paid yet, the homeowners get a reduced total. Landscaping is not covered in the costs.

“For each year going forward, they will continue to pay the lowered taxes until the property is all restored,” Kalonian said.

The tax relief can continue for up to five years as mandated by the state’s Board of Equalization. During that time, the tax relief may decrease as the properties are rebuilt, Kalonian said.

The form for property appraisers is online at Residents can mail it to the county assessor’s office, fax it or turn it in in-person at the Lancaster and Sylmar regional assessors’ offices.

There are currently no recorded figures for recent fire damage, he said.


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