The scammers are back! Once again, property owners throughout California are being targeted by a number of private companies who are taking advantage of people during these tough economic times.
These companies, with names and mailers designed to look like official governmental documents, are soliciting fees ranging from about $80.00 to more than $200.00 to file a homeowner's request for a review of their property’s assessed value for the current tax year, presumably to obtain a lower tax bill on a lower valuation. While they usually prey on the elderly, immigrants and others who may be confused about how property taxes work, these companies are now sending mass mailers to most homes in California.
These official looking mailers are usually printed on a legal size form that contains the homeowner's name, address and current property assessment information preprinted on the form (which are available from public records). These solicitations may also include an estimated tax savings of hundreds or thousands of dollars. Some of the solicitations even create a false sense of urgency by stating that the property owner must comply by a certain date or there will be a penalty of an increased fee for the service.
Virtually every County Assessor has a system for property owners to request a re-evaluation of their property’s value. The Assessors will have forms in their offices, and most have the forms online. The form may be called something like a “Decline in Value” form. Most counties have these forms available in several languages.
In many cases, the property owner can complete the form online; or they can also download and print a paper copy of the form, complete it and either fax, mail or hand deliver their request. Most County Assessors accept most of these methods.
If their request is found to be meritorious, the property’s assessed value will be reduced. If the request is ultimately denied, in most cases the homeowner still has the option to file an appeal before a county appeals board.
ALL OF THIS IS RELATIVELY EASY, FREE -- AND DOESN’T REQUIRE THE HELP OF ANY PERSON OR ENTITY TO ASSIST FOR A FEE.