Category: Title

Change Los Angeles Assessor Square Footage

Los Angeles Assessor West District Office – Kind of deserted in there.

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The Los Angeles Assessor’s Office keeps records of all properties in Los Angeles County for tax collecting purposes. The assessor’s records or “public records” can be used by other government agencies (Like the Building Department), for real estate appraisals, census data, and are available to the public as general information.  

Did you know?

The total number of Properties in Los Angeles is approximately 2.5M parcels! These properties had an assessed valued of 1.416 Trillion in 2017. Of those total parcels, 1,870,000 (or ~75%) were single family homes.

How do I Look Up MY assessor information?

You can search any Los Angeles property’s assessor record using this link to the assessor website:

 https://portal.assessor.lacounty.gov/

Wait… I just checked, and the assessor data is wrong- What Do I Do?

Well, if you are not selling, refinancing, or building new construction- you probably don’t have to do anything. Even if the assessor data is wrong, it is not affecting you. Most homeowners want to correct their assessor data anyway. Having incorrect assessor information can cause difficulty and delays: getting appraisals, obtaining a new loan or refinancing, lowers your property value, and open sellers to legal liability if they disclose incorrect square footage to buyers.

How is there possible legal liability?

I don’t mean to scare you, but a common reason for lawsuits in Los Angeles these days regarding real estate transactions is square footage. A popular statistic LA buyer’s use is price/sqft. If a seller tells a buyer a property has more square footage than it does, the seller might be liable for damages because they provided false information.

As a real estate agent, I always advise my Sellers to use square footage from the public records for your listings. This protects sellers from buyers claiming to be misled. But if the public records are wrong, and they significantly understate the size, unit count, bedroom or bathroom count or other characteristics of your property, it might be tempting to not want to use them.

I think my assessor data is wrong- How do I fix it?

The Data can be wrong for one of two reasons:

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1) Clerical Mistake or Date Entry Error.

A clerical error is fairly easy to fix by submitting a Los Angeles Property Data Change Request to the Assessor’s office. The process takes about 30-90 days depending on the time of year, and how aggressively you follow up and is free. Some research is required. 

Or

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Burning Man

2) Unpermitted Construction.

For unpermitted construction– the assessor records cannot be changed. The only way the assessor records can be changed is to first retroactively permit the construction which is expensive and burdensome.

To figure out which reason the assessor data is wrong requires a little bit of research. The process moves a lot faster if you do the research yourself and provide evidence with your Property Data Change Request.

Let’s get Started!

To change your assessor data I recommend starting by pulling the building permits.

You can search for building permits online on Los Angeles Department of Buildings website:

https://www.ladbs.org/services/check-status/online-building-records

Or you can order building permits online with the permit report for $60 www.thepermitreport.com

The Building permits will usually have some information about the property size (New Construction Permits, Addition Permits, Certificate of Occupancy), and changes that occurred to the property overtime regarding Bedroom/Bathroom Counts (General Remodeling Permits), Lot Size (Lots ties), unit counts (certificates of occupancy).

When you are making a Property Data Change Request you should include evidence to prove your case. Building Permits are great.blank

Another helpful resource for condo sqft and lot size questions is the Assessor Parcel Maps. You can ask a real estate agent for them or search from them on the assessor website online:

 https://portal.assessor.lacounty.gov/

You might find this explanation of APN numbers helpful.

For Condos, the CCR’s usually have SQFT in them. You can get a copy from the HOA or a real estate agent if you don’t have a copy from when you originally bought them.

Do you have an old appraisal report? The appraiser usually measures SQFT in those reports. You can hire an appraiser or floorplan company to measure your property.

Evidence from multiple sources makes your argument stronger.

I thought my SQFT was larger than my research shows

Some SQFT is not counted by the assessor. Garages, Unfinished basements, Attics, Sheds, Unenclosed balconies or patios, Lofts, and this is the biggest one: unpermitted construction. Sorry! The assessor’s office does not recognize unpermitted construction.

The assessor uses two different conventions for measuring Houses and Condos. The Assessor office measures houses from the outside and condos from the inside. I think because it is just more practical to do so. The space between the walls can make a difference in SQFT. 

All Done with research?

I’m Ready to Submit my Property Data Change Request!

I recommend to write a short letter that explains your evidence for the mistake. The Property Data Change form itself is very brief so a letter can give some context. I also recommend to include any supporting evidence you found in your research with your change request. My last tip is to submit the request 2 times, once to the Downtown Assessor Office

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Downtown Assessor Office
Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration
500 W. Temple Street Room 225
Los Angeles, CA 90012-2770

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And your local District Office (Van Nuys, Lancaster, West District Office, South District Office, East District Office, North District Office).

Not sure who your local field office is? Call the assessor office and they can tell you if you give you’re your property address (213) 974-2111

Ok- I’ve submitted what’s the process?

Once you submit your property data change request, it will be assigned to a field supervisor. You can call both the main office and your local field office once or twice a week to check on whether or not your Change Request has been assigned to a field supervisor yet. I can tell you that the assessor gets a lot of change requests- they have a huge stack of them, and if you don’t call you will have to wait until they get to the bottom of the pile to reach yours. If you call frequently it can speed the process up, especially if you have already done your own research.

In reality, these change requests are a fairly low priority, so if it is the busy season, you will have to wait longer as other business will take priority.  

If you are requesting a change in SQFT on a house, or to verify building permits, the assessor might send a field appraiser to do a site visit.

F.A.Q.

How long does it take for Public Records to change?

Sorry to say the assessor moves pretty slow. Once you get the phone call notifying you that your request has been approved it can take up to 6 months for the records to be updated. The assessor’s office, as a policy, does not issue anything in writing, such as a letter or email, that can be used as a proof that the SQFT has changed prior to the system being updated within the next 6 months. 

Will correcting my assessor information raise my property tax?

The answer is Yes and No. It depends on whether you did the construction or not. If the construction was done prior to your purchase of the property, then correcting the assessor record will not affect your assessed value (It is included in the original purchase price). If you did the construction work and improved the property during the time you have owned the property- your property tax will be increased. This is not a reassessing event. Only the additional value of the construction will be added to your tax bases. 

Example: Property was purchased for $500,000, held 5 years, current market value $650,000, Current assessed value $552,000 and property taxes are 1.25% or $6,900 year. Value of construction added $50,000.

A) What is the assessed value if construction was done prior to purchase? $552,000 – the assessed value stays the same. 

B) What is the assessed value if construction was done after purchase?  $602,000. The assessed value goes up on the cost of the construction. The difference in annual property tax is $50,000 x 1.25% = $625

C) What if the property was torn down and rebuilt? The new property would be reassessed at time of being built

If your assessed value goes up, you will get a supplemental tax bill for the year. 

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Lis Pendens

Lis Pendens translated means ‘law suit pending’. Lis Pendis are recorded at the County Recorder’s office, the lawsuit creates a cloud on title preventing the seller from easily selling their property or obtaining title insurance.

As a potential buyer considering a property with a lis pendens filed against it, be aware that this means that if the plaintiff of the lawsuit wins, the owner of the property (you when you purchase it) are responsible for any judgment awarded in that legal action. Let suppose that the plaintiff is awarded $50,000- there will be a $50,000 judgment lien attached to your property, ouch.

A property owner’s first remedy, if a lis pendens is filed is to post a bond. If the court determines that the lis pendens was filed in bad faith, or that it does not affect title or possession, then the court may expunge the lis pendens without the posting of a bond. You can take title to a property despite it having a lis pendens, but you assume the risk of any future judgments against the property. If a lis pendens exists, it should be found in the prelim that your title company provides you aa part of your disclosures (if they miss a Lis Pendens, and you complete a purchase and find out afterwards there is a Lis Pendens, you can file a claim against the title insurance company, which they would have to pay out- this is why they are very careful to have their title reports up to date)

Read the preliminary report thoroughly- change of ownership doesn’t wipe a lis pendens and as the new owner you will be responsible if there is any judgment.

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Deeded Parking

When buying a Condo it is good idea to double check to make sure that the property’s parking spaces are deeded to the unit (and the ones you were shown are in fact the right ones!). Some buildings, like The Churchill in the Wilshire Corridor don’t even have deeded parking spaces. The Churchill valets park cars in the garage wherever they fit. The Granville in West Hollywood has a seniority assigned parking system.

Subterranean parking garage

 

To check whether the condo unit has deeded parking, and which spaces they are, you will need to look at two documents:

  1. Grant Deed (with legal description)
  2. Condo Plan (with Parking Plat Map)

The grant deed for the property can be from any previous sale. It’s usually two or three pages. The first page is the actual deed- and the other pages are exhibits.

Page 1 of Grant Deed, Legal Description for this Grant deed is on Exhibit "A"

Page 1 of Grant Deed, Legal Description for this Grant deed is on Exhibit “A”

We need an “exhibit” that gives the legal description of the property – if the property has deeded parking this section will say how many parking spaces and what location the parking spots in the garage are.

grantdeed2

 

In this example we see that parking spaces 46G and 47G are deeded to the property

Real Estate agents can get grant deeds from the public records, or have your title company get this document.

Condo Plan

When condos are built or converted, the developer must record a Condo Plan with the county. Get the condo plan from your title company. The plan will have plat maps for the division of air space for each level in the building, including the parking garage(s). The parking spaces are labeled with their parking space number.

Deeded Parking Plat

 

Compare the parking spaces that were on the legal property description exhibit from the grant deed with the parking map– are they in the right location? If so, you are good to go.

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Title Insurance

When you buy a property, you expect the title to be clear of any liens or encumbrances. Title insurance guarantees clear title and protects your ownership rights.

Sunny day by beach

Clear Title means that the tile is free of any liens, defects, or encumberances

Title insurance works differently then other kinds of insurance because you only pay the premium once up front, and the insurance will protect you and heirs for as long as you own the property. There are no renewals or expiration date. It is customary for the seller in Los Angeles to pay for the buyers title insurance. If the buyer is making the purchase with a loan, the lender requires that the buyer pay for the lender’s title insurance. Lender title insurance is a different insurance than Title insurance and is customarily paid for by the buyer.

Title insurance companies record the grant deed at the County Recorders office, which is the legal device that transfers title. Have you ever wondered how deeds are recorded? It is done in a very old fashion way. Each weekday, Title Insurance Company send their field reps to line up at the Courthouse and record the grant deed. On recording day, you can ask your escrow officer what number you are in line (its kind of like grabbing a ticket at the deli counter of your local supermarket). The title insurance coverage begins the moment the deed is recorded.

While you are in escrow, the title insurance company will produce a preliminary title report (prelim) as part of the necessary disclosures that will tell you if the property has clear title or if there are any issues that need to be resolved before close of escrow. Pay extra attention to the list of “exclusions”, if there are any, on the Prelim – as these items will not be covered. Find out what needs to be done to remove exclusions. Any problems or defects the title company finds on their title search are known as “clouds” on title.

cloud on title

Clouds on title can come out of nowhere! Title Insurance protects you from losing marketable title of your property

Title companies review all of the documents in the public records and in their database which is known as their title “plant”. What the title company wants to see is a complete chain of title of ownership rights passing from one owner to the next with no gaps or missing periods. Title insurance protects you from unexpected clouds of on title.

If you are buying a condo in a large condo complex with deeded parking, make sure to find out if your title insurance covers parking spaces. Sometimes with deeded parking spaces in condo buildings there is confusion about who owns what parking spaces. Some title companies exclude covering parking spaces which can be a real issue if there are two condos that are deeded the same parking spaces, or the spaces the owner has been using do not actually belong to the unit. Verifying the parking spaces are deeded and which spaces they are are some assurance, but that is no guarantee that another unit was deeded the same spaces. Just be careful with bigger condo buildings.

If there is ever a claim on your title insurance, the title company will pay legal fees upfront (if they lose they have to pay a claim, so they want to win). If there is any loss to you arising from a valid claim they pay the loss.

Title Insurance Covers

1. Someone else owns an interest in your title.
2. A document is not properly signed.
3. Forgery, Fraud, Duress, incompetency.
4. Defective recording of a document
5. Unmarketability of title
6. Restrictive Covenants
7. Lack of a right to access of land
8. Mechanics lien
9. Forced removal of structure- encroachments
10. Forced removal of structure restrictions
11. Forced removal of structure zoning
12. Cannot use land for SFR due to zoning or restrictions
13. Unrecorded liens by Home Owners Association
14. Unrecorded easements
15. Others have rights arising out of leases, contracts or options
16. Pays rent for substitute housing
17. Plain Language
18. Building Permit Violations
19. Subdivision Map Act violations
20. Boundary wall or fence encroachment
21. Post-Policy defect in title
22. Post-Policy contract or lease rights
23. Post-Policy forgery
24. Post-Policy easement
25. Post-Policy limitation on use of land
26. Post Policy encroachment by neighbor other than wall or fence
27. Enhanced access vehicular or pedestrian
28. Damage to structure from use of easement
29 Street address is correct
30 Map shows correct location of the land
31 Exercise of mineral rights
32 Sal falls due to neighbors encroachments
33 Living trust coverage
34 Coverage for spouse acquiring through divorce
35 Automatic policy increase up to 150%
36 Forced removal due to building setbacks
37 Discriminatory covenants
38 Taxing authority assesses supplemental taxes not previously against the land for any period BEFORE the policy date.

 

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