The last issue of The Legal Report detailed how California's real property owners can decrease their property taxes by filing a Proposition 8 "Decline-in-Value Reassessment" form. Just to recap, property taxes are determined by the assessed value of the property, which is typically the amount paid, plus a 2% increase per year. For properties that have decreased in value, a decline-in-value reassessment seeks to reassess the property based on a lower market value, thus reducing property taxes.
There are two important updates. First, in Los Angeles County, the Assessor's Office has [commendably] taken a proactive approach and is unilaterally reassessing all residential properties purchased between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2008 (about 500,000 homes), among some others. The Assessor did this for approximately 318,000 homes last year as well, and reduced the value on 40% of them by an average of $73k that's a tax savings of $750. Los Angeles County owners can look up whether their property is being reassessed for this year at http://assessor.lacounty.gov. The result of the reassessments will be available in July. Thereafter, owners are free to accept the results, contest a no-change, or apply for an even further reduction.
Second, don't be scammed! There are several companies offering their services of pursuing a property tax reduction on behalf of property owners. These companies are charging a fee for something that is free. While consumers can hire a company to seek a decline in value reassessment for them, there is really no need to the forms are very simple to complete, they're readily available on the county assessor's website, and they're free to file (and of course, if you're in Los Angeles County, the Assessor may already be reassessing your property to begin with!).