Silver lining to winter storm damage in California: You can claim a property tax cut

A worker with an umbrella inspects a damaged home.
A Southern California Gas Co. worker investigates a Beverly Crest home that was pushed off its foundation by a mudslide on Feb. 5.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

If the floods, slides and landscape mayhem triggered by the string of winter storms severely damaged your house in California, there’s one bit of relief you can claim: a property tax cut.

Under state law, property owners who suffer at least $10,000 in damage to their home’s current market value can apply for a reassessment. They have to file an application with their county assessor’s office within 12 months of the incident unless their county offers a later deadline.

Beyond damaged homes, the potential relief is available to owners of anything assessed for property tax purposes that was severely damaged, including business equipment and fixtures, orchards, olive groves, aircraft and boats, and certain manufactured homes. You can’t get a tax break for ruined furniture or appliances at your home, though, because those aren’t part of its assessed value.


If your application is granted, your property’s assessed value will be reduced as of the date the damage occurred. If you had already paid property taxes for that time period, you can obtain a refund. Otherwise, the reduction will apply in the future until you fix the damage, the property undergoes a change in ownership, or you transfer its taxable value to another property, according to the Los Angeles County assessor’s office.

Under state law, homeowners qualify for a modest property tax cut on their primary residence. Yet some 435,000 families in L.A. County don’t sign up.

Jan. 31, 2024

In a news release, the office said it is “working proactively to identify the properties affected and move the process forward.”

“It’s understandable that those affected by these storms would not be thinking about their property taxes at this difficult time,” L.A. County Assessor Jeff Prang said in a statement. He added that his office has a dedicated team available to guide property owners through the claim process.

The application forms for a disaster-related reassessment, which are available from your county assessor’s website, typically require the owner to submit proof of the damage — for example, through repair bills or construction estimates — and sign the forms under penalty of perjury. L.A. County’s form is available online or by calling (213) 974-8658; Orange County’s form can be found online; Ventura County’s form is also online.

There is one other potential break to bear in mind, especially if your house is red-tagged. For older homes, the taxable property value can be significantly less than the market value, which means much lower property taxes. That’s because Proposition 13 limits annual increases in a property’s taxable value to 2%.

Probably not. That’s because in Los Angeles County, home to nearly 10 million people, there are just 14,580 flood insurance policies on the books.

Feb. 5, 2024


If your home was substantially damaged or destroyed in the recent storms, Proposition 19 from 2020 allows you to transfer the taxable value to a newly purchased or constructed house anywhere in the state within two years after you sell the damaged property. The relief applies only to houses that lost more than half of their market or improvement value in a disaster for which the governor declared a state of emergency.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared emergencies in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Diego and San Luis Obispo counties for the storms that hit this month, and in San Diego and Ventura counties for the storms that hit in December and January.