“San Francisco homeowners have until Thursday to request a temporary property tax reduction for 2011-12 by filling out a one-page form and returning it to the county assessor’s office…property owners who miss the March 31 deadline can still file a formal appeal between July 5 and Sept. 15, but [it’s] a more involved process [with] a $65 fee.”
Deadlines to seek Bay Area property-tax reductions [SFGate]
Temporary Homeowners’ Property Tax Reduction/Informal Review [sfassessor]
Formal Tax Assessment Appeal [sfbos.org]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by fred

    Thanks for the reminder. In the past I got a reduction from 1.4 to 1.25 M doing my own research, and this year have an appraisal to support 1.1. It really does provide some relief in an otherwise bleak situation.

  2. Posted by Rob

    Last year i filled out the 1 page form and submitted it, 4 months later in August i got a notice saying that it had been rejected. As a Bayview resident I KNOW my property value had dropped (and has continued to do so), so i was thoroughly unsure what the basis for rejection could have been. Clearly there is no lack of ample documentation to support a reduction. I then filled out the formal appeal and paid the $65 fee. Upon turning the form in at City Hall i was told that due to their backlog that the City had up to 18 months to give me a hearing date, but that i would likely get a hearing date closer to a year.
    It is likely that i may not get a hearing date until 2012 after filing in March 2010, during which time i will have made my full fiscal year 2010-2011 payment increased again from 09′-10′ and possibly my first payment (with another approx 1.16% increase) of the 2011-2012 fiscal year, and who knows how long getting a refund will take at that point. The website is great for letting you know filing dates, and purposely lacking on information for when true action may take place.

  3. Posted by Jimbo in SF

    Apart from contacting a realtor, anyone know an easy way to get 3 recent comps online?

  4. Posted by fred

    In my previous attempt I also got a rejection on my informal request and then waited over a year for a Board hearing. About a month before the hearing, the assessor’s office contacted me and they offered a concession. I agreed to that and the hearing was canceled. So, the process does work – just have patience and keep applying each year.

  5. Posted by resp

    unless, it appears, you own a TIC or multi-unit building in which case you need to go through formal review

  6. Posted by Rob

    During that year wait did you apply again for a temporary reduction? I’m debating doing so but it seems redundant. I know that by the time i do have a chance at a hearing that I have plenty of documentation to support my case, I just don’t know what would happen to have a pending hearing for 2010-2011 and be seeking a reduction for 2011-2012.
    Does anyone know if a new value from a hearing to determine 2010-11 will reset a baseline for 2010-2011 as well as calculation of 2011-12, or does a hearing simply reset One (1) fiscal year leaving me to refile for review for 2011-12 in a repeat of the process?

  7. Posted by fred

    I recall that I applied for a reduction one year (year1) but not the next year (year2). When I spoke to the assessor’s office about year1 and reached a formal stipulation, the assesor volunteered to preemptively have the same value be used for year2. I agree to this but it was not a formal stipulation.
    To answer your question, yes, apply each year as each year is treated separately. But, once you finally get some bandwidth with the assessor’s office you may be able to kill two birds with one stone.

  8. Posted by Rob

    Thanks to anyone who might have some information, and I actually decided just to put a call in to the Assesors office and to answer my own question my appeal is only good for the 2010-2011 fiscal year and will not apply to 2011-2012, hence i am now about to hurriedly fill out a new temporary reduction request.
    The person i spoke with also informed me that they are still currently working on formal hearing requests from 2009-2010 and will not begin on the 2010-2011 requests until August. Needless to say I may not get a hearing until July 2012 for an appeal filed in August of 2010.

  9. Posted by Willow

    Rob: Sorry to hear about your situation. I had the exact opposite experience with the Assessor’s office. I identified 3 comps that were favorable to my case. (Actually all of them were somewhat dubious since I couldn’t find anything that had sold in Glen Park to match my home so I used Sunnyside & Bernal.) Anyway, I asked for a modest 3% reduction and ended up getting my property taxes reduced by 12%. It’s back up by 2% this year but I’m still ahead.
    When did you buy your home? If it was between 2003-2007 the county is pretty much conceding reductions unless they are unreasonable. The key is to remain persistent and keep calling otherwise you fall off their radar.
    Good luck!

  10. Posted by G

    This whole process confuses me a bit. If prop 13 ensures that these taxes can never go up if your property increases in value, why should they be allowed to go down when the value decreases?

  11. Posted by Lance

    The process can work, but it’s not without problems. Similar to Fred, I filed an informal appeal for ’07-08 that got rejected so I filed it again formally. Before my hearing, they called and agreed to an assessment reduction of 7%, which I accepted. The problem is that the following year, they didn’t respond to my informal appeal until literally the day AFTER the formal appeal deadline. I never filed a foraml appeal, and they denied my informal one. They reset my tax base — effectively resulting in a 12% increase! I raised hell with the assessors office, but I still got stuck with the higher bill. This past year, my informal appeal resulted in a 10% reduction, and I’ve already filed for another 10% this year.
    I always get my comps off of Zillow recent sales data, and I’ve never had an issue. Like Willow said, some of the comps aren’t really comparable, but it was the best I could find to support what I would like for my value to be for tax purposes. It seems like paying for an appraisal would be a waste of money unless you’ve got a massive tax bill.

  12. Posted by Dubocian

    @G: Prop 13 doesn’t say that the taxes won’t go up. They do, every year… the assessed value is increased with inflation, to a maximum of 2% per year. So there’s still a steady increase every year. What Prop 13 DOES to is limit the annual increase to that 2%. So in boom times, when property values were rising 10% in a year, it would take a while for the assessed values to catch up with the market values.
    But if the actual value of the property drops, then the assessed value should also drop to match the new value. You’re not suggesting that people should be taxed on a value that is greater than what their property is worth, are you?

  13. Posted by PostIt

    “You’re not suggesting that people should be taxed on a value that is greater than what their property is worth, are you?”
    Isn’t it equally dubious to ask that you be taxed on a value less than what a property is worth?

  14. Posted by sfrenegade

    “But if the actual value of the property drops, then the assessed value should also drop to match the new value. You’re not suggesting that people should be taxed on a value that is greater than what their property is worth, are you?”
    No, but if fair market value is equivalent to what the Prop 13 value would have been without the reduction, the reduction should be eliminated. Otherwise you’re getting an unfair windfall. I like the idea of temporary year-by-year appeals because property taxes in California are enough of a joke as it is.

  15. Posted by Mikey

    I submitted a request online for a reduction last year with three comps I got from Zillow or Redfin and it was approved without a problem.
    Also, this year, the assessor automatically kept the same value if you had it reduced last year.

  16. Posted by Rillion

    Rob, the first time I requested an informal review it was rejected (for 2008-2009). The next year (for 2009-2010) I requested it again and this time they lowered my value by more then I had requested and then left my unit at the reduced value for 2010-2011. So I would request an informal again.
    My cynical belief, based on a lot of people’s feedback, is that the city almost always denies the first informal request figuring that most people won’t have bothered to formally appeal since they often don’t tell you the result of the informal until after the deadline for the formal.

  17. Posted by Rob

    From the start my situation seemed odd because my home was not a purchase transaction but a construction from a vacant lot. Even in determining my assessed value I’m not sure what the Assessor used as a basis. I submitted my costs to the assessor and the vale that was established was 50k above that amount. This was 2006. I did not contest the increase as the housing bubble popped until 2010 when the median purchase price in 94124 dropped 18.3%. Unfortunately for me there was not a single non foreclosure or short sale I could use as a comp and so i used those without thinking to use a surrounding area, but surrounding districts are hardly comp when dealing with the Bayview. Development and gentrification have not made that even close to a reality yet and that may be the reason I was rejected. Nonetheless I just submitted my reduction request seeking 15% reduction considering taxes went up last year and will again. Maybe they will be willing to play ball this year especially with true market comps listed.

  18. Posted by Rillion

    There was a thread from last year I think that mentioned that the main factors the Assesor’s office look at are the neighborhood, the unit type (condo/sfr) and the square footage.

  19. Posted by G

    “But if the actual value of the property drops, then the assessed value should also drop to match the new value. You’re not suggesting that people should be taxed on a value that is greater than what their property is worth, are you?”
    This is exactly what I was suggesting. Purchasing a home is a risky venture, but this system transfers some risk to the City. People seem to have no problem paying less tax than they should in the boom times. Should the City get penalized again in the bad times?

  20. Posted by sfrenegade

    “People seem to have no problem paying less tax than they should in the boom times. Should the City get penalized again in the bad times?”
    I would agree with this policy overall. My response above is more that if we’re going to allow appeals, any reductions should be time-limited, and people shouldn’t have their tax base revised to a lower amount permanently because Prop 13 would make this quite a windfall. The city/county shouldn’t be permanently disadvantaged because some homeowners made bad bubble-time decisions.

  21. Posted by mint

    I was going to submit an appeal this year (bought in 2007 and I’m sure we’re down at least 10%), but we are planning a moderate renovation of our house in the next few months. Post-renovation, could the assessor’s office determine that the new value of our house actually exceeds our 2007 tax base? If that’s the case, I’d rather not rock the boat and draw attention to our property at all…
    I can’t find anything on the assessor’s website that answers this question. But I figure if anyone would know, it would be SocketSiters. That’s why I’m addicted to this blog. Thanks in advance!

  22. Posted by observantneighbor

    I don’t see any harm to filing the request. The assessor will get wind of your remodel eventually, if you do it with permits, and will then increase your tax basis moderately based on either the price of the job as stated in the permits or (if the price stated is absurdly low) on a book of standard values (e.g., kitchen remodel costs $x, bathroom remodel costs $y, etc.). In any event, none of this will affect your valuation as of Jan. 1, 2011, which is what your assessment appeal application would target.

  23. Posted by Rillion

    “Should the City get penalized again in the bad times?”
    Why should the City get a perputual windfall if someone buys a place at the top of the market?
    If a house burns down do you also believe that the city is “getting penalized” by reducing the value until the house is rebuilt?

  24. Posted by condoshopper

    As it stands now, after the re-assessment, is the Prop 13 basis being reduced to the lower value of the house?

  25. Posted by bgelldawg

    I had the same experience as Lance two years ago.
    I filed the informal request and it was denied AFTER the deadline had passed to file a formal request. I didn’t realize that there was no appeal possible for the denial of the informal request.
    Last year I didn’t bother with the informal request. I filed a formal one and I am waiting for a hearing date.
    It would have been nice if the Chronicle (and Socket Site) had reminded people about the informal appeal more than a day before the deadline.

  26. Posted by Rillion

    “As it stands now, after the re-assessment, is the Prop 13 basis being reduced to the lower value of the house?”
    No, Prop 13 basis is the original value adjusted by the annual inflation factor, up to 2%. The reductions are controlled by Prop 8 and are based on the market value being below the Prop 13 basis, and are temporary. Here is a good description of the process from the BOE site:
    “A property that has been reassessed under Proposition 8 is then reviewed annually to determine its lien date value. The assessed value of a property with a Proposition 8 value in place may increase each lien date (January 1) by more than the standard two percent maximum allowed for properties assessed under Proposition 13; however, unless there is a change in ownership or new construction, a property’s assessed value can never increase above its factored Proposition 13 base year value after adjusting for the annual increase.”

  27. Posted by condoshopper

    Thanks Rillion. So for example, if you buy a house for 500K and that is its prop 13 basis, and the house drops to 450K after one year, and you successfully get it re-assessed to 450K for that year’s tax purpose, but then the following year there’s a bull market and the market value of the house is 600K, then the assessor’s office would bump the assessment right back up to 500K * 1.02 * 1.02 (for the two years that have elapsed since you bought it), right?

  28. Posted by Rillion

    condoshopper, correct, assuming that overall inflation in California was 2% or more for both those years.

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