Owning a home is expensive. You’ve got your mortgage, any repairs or improvements, homeowners insurance, and property taxes. But besides trimming your budget, there’s nothing you can do to save money in any of these areas, right? Wrong! You can appeal your property taxes to see if you can save a little money each year.
Appealing your property taxes won’t get you out of paying them entirely, but it can decrease your tax burden, giving you a little more financial breathing room.
Here’s how to appeal your property taxes in Los Angeles:
DON’T THROW OUT YOUR ASSESSMENT LETTER
Periodically, your local tax assessor will reevaluate the assessed value of your home. The assessed value of your home is the value that your local government places on it for the purpose of levying taxes.
The assessed value takes the fair market value of your home and multiplies it by a percentage – what that percentage depends on your local rules – to arrive at an assessed value.
When your home is reassessed, you receive a letter from your local tax assessor. In that letter is all the information you need about your home’s value: Lot size, land value, and the value of any perceived additions to your property.
If you believe your home’s value has been calculated higher than it should be, you will use the information in your assessment letter to appeal your property taxes. Read it carefully and note anything you feel to be incorrect.
DECIDE IF AN APPEAL IS WORTHWHILE
Sometimes, you’ll find a difference in your assessment letter that doesn’t seem to be worth quibbling over.
How much time and effort you want to put into appealing your property taxes depends greatly on how much benefit you may see from a favorable outcome.
If your property tax bill may change a dozen or a couple hundred dollars should you appeal your property taxes, you may not decide it’s worth it. But if your property taxes will decrease a few hundred or even a thousand dollars with an appeal, the effort could make a big difference in your budget.
STUDY THE DATA
Look at your assessment letter and make sure that all the data is correct about your home. Sometimes, mistakes are made that can lead to a big difference in the assessed valuation and, in turn, a big difference in property taxes.
Don’t just check lot size and number of bedrooms; even items such as fireplaces can impact your property tax bill.
If there’s anything that’s incorrect – After all, there is a big difference between .5 acres and 5.0 acres – you may have an easy appeal on your hands.
SEE WHAT YOUR NEIGHBORS PAY
In many cases, property taxes are pretty steady throughout neighborhoods. Sure, some homes in your neighborhood may be appreciably larger or smaller than yours, but many properties are likely to be very similarly sized and, as a result, should have similar assessed valuations and property tax bills.
If you aren’t close enough with your neighbors to discuss your property tax bills, you can contact a real estate agent to have them pull “comps.”
“Comps” are properties nearby yours in Los Angeles that are comparable in size and other specifications to your own.
Compare the specifications on these properties to yours, as well as their property tax bills. Vast differences could be grounds for an appeal.
CONSIDER AN APPRAISAL
Having an updated appraisal to back up your claims can be important when you try to appeal your property taxes.
While this does require paying a little extra up front, sometimes a few hundred dollars, an appraiser can give you a document to put in your property tax appeal that may do more to convince your tax assessor’s office than your assertions may.
PRESENT YOUR CASE
Now that you’ve gathered all your evidence, it’s time to call your assessor’s office and plead your case.
Many tax assessors will discuss your assessment informally by phone and can give you a determination quickly. Others may require you to start with a formal appeal.
If your assessor’s office doesn’t offer informal discussions, or you aren’t satisfied with the explanation you’re given, you can begin the formal review process. This may require you to fill out forms and send in evidence.
WAIT FOR THE RULING
A ruling on a formal review can take a few months, so try to be patient.
You’ll likely receive the decision from your review in writing, sent in the mail.
APPEAL IF NECESSARY
Sometimes, the reviews don’t yield satisfactory results.
If this happens to you, you can appeal the decision. Often, this requires you to pay a small filing fee and submit official forms.
Pay careful attention to deadlines and requirements on formal appeals; if you miss a deadline or don’t send something in the correct form, it can invalidate your entire appeal.