Property Tax Reassessment Firm Still at It, but under Investigation

Property Tax Reassessment, a Los Angeles firm, continues to send its pitches to San Diego residents. The letter, which looks like a government form, says your property may have been overassessed by such and such an amount. It says it will take care of getting your property reassessed for a fee of $179. After May 27, it will be $209. Last year, the county assessor's office warned said that, among other things, this company needed a disclaimer saying it was not connected with the government. This year, buried in a Frequently Asked Questions section, the company says it is "not a government agency and at no time should the fee be construed as mandatory." Jeff Olson, chief of assessment services of the county assessor's office, says that the Los Angeles district attorney's consumer fraud division is currently investigating Property Tax Reassessment. And you can get the service the company purports to provide for free through the assessor's office.

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Response to post #5: That's what we're here for. Best, Don Bauder

While I have a tough time excusing the abuses of one of these shady outfits, there is the matter of people not being able to take care of themselves. And some operation like this comes along and actually does something that is available to the homeowners. Could it be the case that the objection by the assessor's office is more based on the fact that more applicants for property tax relief translates into a sharp drop in the take from property taxes?

What I mean is this: would the assessor's office notify property owners that they can possibly apply for relief? Would the assessor be ready to reassess all the properties that changed hands in the past, say, five to seven years, and let the owners know of their windfall? LOL No, the assessor as a public employee knows that a sharp drop in county property tax collections will mean less for his office and all other county offices.

It just might be that most of those who pay the $179 (or $209) actually come out ahead on their taxes and recover at least that much, probably more, just this year. Won't they benefit for the next few years until property values reinflate? If they pay for a service that is actually free, yet come out ahead, who's the victim?

Only when the assessor is advising property owners to apply for a reassessment, and getting good response, can he complain about this. "Transparency" in local government is a long way from being the rule. And as long as such processes are hidden and difficult to access, operators such as Property Tax Assessment will fill a void.

A sad set of affairs, isn't it?

It just might be that most of those who pay the $179 (or $209) actually come out ahead on their taxes and recover at least that much, probably more, just this year. Won't they benefit for the next few years until property values reinflate? If they pay for a service that is actually free, yet come out ahead, who's the victim?

As much as I hate these people doing this "service", this is a valid argument.

My real estate firm actually did a service like this for commercial property owners back in the early 90's.

The commercial property owner paid the firm 1/3 of any tax relief from the first year. But commercial property can be much harder to value, especially ones with cash flows.

Response to post #1: Yours are interesting observations. However, in the case of this company and others like it, the forms are misleading. They look like government forms -- deliberately. Yes, the company does tell people that their home is overassessed, but how do we know that it really provides a useful service in righting the situation? Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #2: Again, we don't know if Property Tax Reassessment actually follows through on its claims. It says it will prepare and submit all necessary documentation and will act as your agent in all dealings with the county assessor's office in all hearings. Will it? I am told that if you call the company's L.A. number, you can't get an answer. I have a hard time believing this company is set up to provide the services of which it boasts. Best, Don Bauder

I am so glad I read this!! I received one of these and was about to send in my hard earned $179. Thank you for the post!!

That's what we're here for.

By dbauder

Knowledge is power baby.

Response to post #7: The uneven distribution of knowledge is critical to understanding markets. Insiders and their cohorts have knowledge that others, including those on the other ends of contracts, don't have. That's one reason that wealth and income are so concentrated in the hands of a few. Best, Don Bauder

I have been getting those offers in various forms for the past 27 years. They also have offered to file your homestead exemption for you for a fee. Of course you can do that yourself for free as well. Is it really a scam, I mean I could perform pest control, spraying some poisen here and there and emptying rat traps, on my own house very cheaply but I pay a service $100 a month.

Response to post #9: I have been writing about these outfits for as long as you have been receiving their pitches. Are they scams? Absolutely, when their pitches are misleading, as they almost always are: they will send documents that look like government forms; the wording will suggest that they are government agencies; usually they couldn't perform the services they tout, among many things. Best, Don Bauder

I have been getting those offers in various forms for the past 27 years. They also have offered to file your homestead exemption for you for a fee.

Yeah, the homestead exemption (not worth all that much though) is about as easy as it can get;

1) buy homestead exemption form ($1-$2)

2) get notary public to endorse it ($10)

3) file with country recorder ($12?)

Total cost = under $25 plus an hour of your time

You could make an argument that this company is providing a service, although they are misleading at best and criminal at worst.

I received a mailer from them last month in which they indicated that my property value (by their estimation) had fallen to $576,000 and that they could save me $3,000 in property taxes. One problem: No home in my neighborhood has sold for less than $800,000. There's no way I would be reassessed at the figure they indicated. In fact, it's unlikely I could save any money at all. So I would be throwing away the money. Of course, they aren't guaranteeing you'll get your assessment lowered — only that they'll file the paperwork.

I phoned them to ask a few more questions. One of my questions was: "Where are you located so I can come down and speak with someone in person?" They refused to give their address. The most I got out of a woman named Andrea was that they were located in Mission Valley (I received another mailing a few weeks later with a very similar look to it that was from a company with a slightly different name located in Los Angeles).

I am a real estate broker and have advised family and friends how to go about filing the reassessment appeal for free if they think it could save them on property taxes. I did an item on my blog that has direct links to the assessor's Web site and the paperwork you can fill out to file. It must be turned in by May 30.

Here is the link:

http://housingsandiego.blogspot.com/2009/04/property-reassessment-could-save-you.html

Response to post #11: That homestead exemption character was peddling his wares for many years. I wrote about him several times. As I recall, he was nailed, but this was more than 10 years ago, and the memory fades. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #12: This is similar to the experiences others have told me about. Its records are sloppy, its approach misleading and its location mysterious, although it seems to be in L.A. and gives a phone number. Just try getting someone to answer. Best, Don Bauder

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