By Jeff Prang, Los Angeles County assessor
From the Assessor’s Office
As you might imagine my office receives literally tens of thousands of questions annually, interestingly enough, mostly dealing with real estate. interestingly enough, mostly dealing with real estate. Questions about home values, reassessments, what happens when a homeowner dies and more.
Nearly half of my approximately 1,200 employees are property appraisers. They appraise everything from homes to commercial buildings to airplanes. They are certified by the state and are the professionals. Their training has provided them with the answers to nearly every imaginable question when it comes to property tax issues but most others do not have the answers through no fault of their own. It can be a quagmire of confusion when it comes to these complicated issues.
Along those lines, I have taken the most common questions we receive and have tried to provide easily understood answers. I hope you find them useful:
- What is a supplemental tax?
The Supplemental Tax is a bill that reconciles the difference between the taxes owed by the prior owner and those now owed by the new owner.
This amount is prorated from the time of closing escrow until the time the Assessor learns that there is a new owner and the Treasurer-Tax Collector can send a new, up-to-date property tax bill. To estimate the amount of supplemental taxes for a given property, please visit https://assessor.lacounty.gov/supplemental-tax-estimator.
- What do you do when a property owner dies?
The Los Angeles County Assessor must be notified within 150 days of the date of death by filing the Change in Ownership — Death of Real Property Owner form along with a copy of the death certificate. This must be filed in addition to any notification made to law enforcement, the Coroner, or even the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Failure to notify the Assessor may result in penalties and complicate estate planning. For more information, go to assessor.lacounty.gov/death-of-real-property-owner.
- What exactly is the Homeowners’ Exemption?
This is a property tax savings program that reduces the assessed value of your home by $7,000, which translates to approximately $70 annually off your property tax bill. The home must be your primary residence. You need only file the form one-time and the annual savings remains until you sell our home or affirmatively cancel the exemption. Over 30% of homeowners in LA County who qualify have not applied, primarily because they are unaware of this easy to access program. For more information go to assessor.lacounty.gov/homeowners-exemption.
- Am I protected from reassessment if the property is in a trust?
No. A trust is essentially a set of instructions on how property is to be disposed of upon the death of its owner. Generally, when the trustor of a revocable living trust passes away, their property transfers to the beneficiaries named in the trust.
Although a trust may identify the recipient of the property — the beneficiary — that beneficiary is still obligated to report the transfer to the Assessor’s Office by filing a Change in Ownership – Death of Real Property Owner within 150 days of the death. Additionally, if a child or grandchild is inheriting the property, they may seek to have the date of death transfer excluded from change in ownership reassessment by filing a Prop. 19 parent-child or grandparent-grandchild transfer exclusion claim with the Assessor’s Office. For more information go to assessor.lacounty.gov/real-estate-professionals-toolkit/07-wills-and-trust-savings/.
- When the assessor’s building diagrams are in conflict with those at the city’s building department, which are correct?
The cities have the official plans upon which you should rely. A discrepancy between the assessor’s records and the city’s may indicate that there has been unpermitted construction.
- When will my property be reassessed?
Property is reassessed when it changes ownership or when new construction occurs. Examples of new construction include the addition of a pool or accessory dwelling unit (ADU). When new construction occurs, only that portion of the property that was newly constructed is reassessed; the rest of the property however retains its existing base year value. As a result, following the completion of new construction, the property will have what is called a “blended” base year value.
These are just a sampling of the questions my office receives every day, but they’re some of the most common.
For more information on Prop. 19 or other tax savings programs, visit assessor.lacounty.gov or call 213-974-3211. 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.