The assessor’s 411 on fire relief

A house on the 29500 block of Sequoia Road in Canyon Country burns during the Tick Fire early Friday morning. Cory Rubin/The Signal
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Jeff Prang, L.A. County Assessor

This has been a challenging fire season, and it’s still not officially over, which is usually considered near the end of the year.

However, since we’ve been experiencing extremely dry conditions this autumn, fire season can carry over into the first part of next year before the March rains.

In any event, several fires have erupted across our region over the last few months driven by winds of up to 80 mph, resulting in loss of property and one reported fatality connected to the Saddleridge Fire.  

Santa Clarita has not been spared either, with the Tick Complex Fire burning through 4,615 acres and threatening about 10,000 structures while destroying 29 structures and damaging another 44, according to reports at the time of this writing. There have been no reports of fatalities connected to the Tick Complex Fire.

At one time, between 30,000 and 40,000 people were under orders to evacuate. This wind-swept blaze was massive and was driven by violent, howling gusts topping out at 80 mph. Then nature began to cooperate, winds slowed, first responders got the upper hand and residents were allowed to return to their homes and businesses.

I want to extend my deepest respect and regards to those property owners who have lost their homes, business or commercial/industrial buildings. I also want to applaud the valiant efforts of the first responders who are always standing ready to move toward the danger not away from it. They are our heroes and I thank all of them for their tireless efforts protecting property and life.

I am visiting with you this month because I want to remind property owners who have lost their property or have suffered damage of $10,000 or more that they’re eligible for tax relief. That’s right: If you are eligible, you can get property tax relief on your bill right now.

Here’s how it works: You must file the Application for Reassessment — Misfortune and Calamity claim, which is available online at assessor.lacounty.gov/disaster-relief; by phone: 213-974-8658; by social media at @lacassessor or in person at any public counter location.

The claim has to be filed with my office within 12 months of the fire, or a flood, earthquake or any other natural disaster. As mentioned, these claims are applicable for any natural disaster and obviously are appropriate for the Tick Complex Fire.

You have time to file the claim, since the deadline is still a year off, but it’s important to do so as soon as possible because the tax relief can come in handy when you are planning on rebuilding or replacing.

The savings can be for a total loss of the property or a percentage of the damage as long as it’s $10,000 or more. The percentage is calculated by the appraiser using a standard formula, oftentimes in conjunction with other factors such as existing insurance.

Sometimes, the tax relief may not be a significant amount but it most assuredly helps in a time of need. And we want to help during this time of need.

In fact, we were out at the Santa Clarita Assistance Center during the end of October and into the first days of November for the Tick Complex Fire. People that lost their property or suffered damage were on hand to receive county services to help them through this difficult time.  We were there to help as well. We assisted people with the M&C claims at our intake table inside the center and we immediately started the process of property tax relief for those individuals.

Although we helped dozens of people that came through seeking assistance, many property owners are still not aware that this tax relief exists. It does and I encourage everyone to avail themselves of this money savings program.  

As an example, my office approved more than $3 million in tax relief for last year’s Woolsey Fire, which the deadline to file the M&C just ended in November. This relief was by way of refunds and adjustments to the 2018/2019 tax bills. The Woolsey Fire had 1,328 homes and businesses affected. Of those, 797 were entirely destroyed.

We believe that every property was identified. Dozens of appraisers were at work around the clock to ensure people received the required reassessment of the property that led to the tax relief. I estimate that for that fire alone, my staff logged more than 2,500 hours on the job.

I wanted to share with you the M&C claims available for fire victims this month and in subsequent months, I’m going to be sharing with your several other savings programs that we offer. Those programs include the Homeowners’ Exemption, Parent-Child Transfer and Senior Replacement to name just a few of those we offer.   

Again, the M&C claim forms can be obtained online at assessor.lacounty.gov/disaster-relief or by phone at (213) 974-8658. Please avail yourself of this tax relief program.

Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang has been in office since 2014. Upon taking office, Prang implemented sweeping reforms to ensure that the strictest ethical guidelines rooted in fairness, accuracy and integrity would be adhered to in his office, which is the largest office of its kind in the nation with 1,400 employees and provides the foundation for a property tax system that generates $17 billion annually. ν

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