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Officials: Private companies make misleading offer

Posted: October 25, 2009 10:33 p.m.
Updated: October 26, 2009 7:00 a.m.
 

County officials are warning homeowners about private-company mailers that promise to decrease property taxes for a fee, but fail to mention the county does it for free.

The private companies are charging a $150 fee for the county's free decline in value review service, said assessor spokesman Robert Knowles.

Instead of shelling out cash, homeowners can download and fill out a single-page form from the Los Angeles County Assessor's Web site: assessor.lacounty.gov.

The service can help homeowners save money in property taxes if the home's value decreases.

He said the new mailers were being sent out because the county is sending out tax bills. About four or five companies are responsible for sending out the misleading information, and many of the companies names are meant to sound like they come from the assessor's office, he said.

"They have all different types of names, which they change a lot," Knowles said. Due to the slumping economy, companies have become more aggressive over the last two years, leading to lots of confusion among county residents, he said.

Since home values have been in decline for years throughout California, the assessor's office began actively reviewing property values on its own two years ago. Before, homeowners had to submit an application to receive a review. Since the county began pro actively assessing property values, 473,000 properties have been reviewed, resulting lower assessments of 330,000 single-family homes, according to their Web site.

According to the assessor's web site, for properties that were found to have a lower assessed property, homeowners saved an average of $1,300 in property taxes. The county contacts residents who have already had their homes assessed, Knowles said.

For more information, homeowners are being encouraged to go to the assessor's web site at: assessor.lacounty.gov.

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