SLO County assessors are warning homeowners not to pay for services they can already get for free.
For the second time in as many years, according to Assistant Assessor Kirk Kidwell, local homeowners received notices from Property Tax Assessor Records Corp., offering yearly property tax savings. For $25, the company promises to handle the paperwork for a homeowner’s exemption, which will knock off about $75 per year in property taxes. An additional $34 fee for a “valuation information service” is also mentioned in the letter and is automatically charged to any respondent unless they specifically request not to have it.
It looks like a reasonable deal on its face: Pay $59 once and save about $75 every year thereafter. But in addition to the money, the company also requires personal information, including a Social Security number.
Furthermore, any house considered a principal place of residence qualifies for a homeowner’s exemption, and that’s supposed to be free. At worst, the application card takes about two minutes to fill out, Kidwell explained. In effect, anyone who goes through Property Tax Assessor Records Corp. would end up doing the same amount of work.
Company representatives could not be reached for comment and the California Secretary of State listed its incorporation documents as “forfeited,” which means they are not allowed to conduct business in the state.
Kidwell said most local homeowners already take advantage of the exemption, but a minority may have been duped into paying for a free service.
Another company, Los Angeles-based Property Tax Reassessment, sent similar notices earlier this year promising huge property tax savings. Those letters were aimed at homeowners whose properties had dropped in value and could be reassessed for lower tax bills.
For that service, homeowners would have to pay $179 to have the company submit their property for possible reassessment by the county. Again, reassessment petitions are reviewed for free by the Assessor’s Office.
State law already requires the county to reassess whenever a homeowner makes a request. Often, as is the case locally, assessors will proactively reassess properties that may have declined in value to avoid being flooded with requests.
Property Tax Reassessment did not respond to a request for comment before press time.