Don’t be conned by tax reduction mailers

October 21, 2009 

They look like government mailings. But they aren’t. And they could cost you up to $200 for a service you can get for free.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is warning homeowners to avoid solicitations from firms charging a hefty fee to “assist” area homeowners in filing property assessment reduction forms. The mailings come in plain, official-looking envelopes and offer to complete an evaluation of your property’s assessed value if only you’ll send them a “processing fee check or money order.” Many unwary homeowners pay the fee only to discover that the “review” is one that the county Assessor’s Office does every day for free.

If you are think you qualify for lower property taxes, you can download forms here, and visit the County’s Assessment Appeals page for full details on all aspects of property assessment, including proposed reductions. The County Assessor has already reviewed 473,000 residential properties to consider whether their assessed values should be reduced for 2009, and property owners were notified in June of the results. Property owners can also call toll-free (888) 807-2111 for assistance. “We definitely want people to know this is a free service,” says Assessor’s Special Assistant John Noguez.

One more bit of good news: In mid October, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 992, authored by Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), which tightens the rules against charging fees in advance for companies that actively advocate for homeowners at assessors’ offices or appeals boards.

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