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Message #684 Home owners and renters assistance

Homeowner and Renters Assistance for Senior Citizens, Blind, and Disabled Persons (mp3 file)

The homeowner and renter assistance law provides property tax relief in the form of a once-a-year refund of part of the property taxes you pay on your home, or part of the property taxes paid by your rent payments. However, there are special requirements you must meet before you can qualify.

You must be 62 years of age or older, or blind, or disabled, as of December -31 in the year before you apply. You must be a resident of California on December 31 in the year before you apply. You must have owned and occupied your home on December 31 in the year before you apply, or you must have lived in a qualified rented residence and paid $50 or more per month for rent during the year before you apply. You must also meet certain household income requirements: your total household income for the last year must be less than $13,200.

"Household income" means cash received from nearly all sources, including wages, social security, supplemental security income,. Railroad retirement, gross amounts received from pensions and annuities, unemployment insurance benefits, veterans benefits, net rental income, net business income, interest, dividends, disability pensions, some life insurance proceeds and death benefits, some gifts, and realized capital gains. You must 'include the income of all people living in the home, except for renters, students, and minors under age 18. Income level, however, changes often because of changes in our economy. You will have to contact your local office of the franchise tax board to find out the exact amount of income you are allowed in order to be eligible for property tax relief.

Only one member of each household may apply for homeowner assistance. If more than one person in a household qualifies, such as both husband and wife, you will have to decide which one will file. A married couple is considered as one renter, and may file only one claim. If you lived in a rented residence with other qualified renters, each may file an assistance claim, but each person must meet all the eligibility requirements.

Each case for homeowner or renter assistance is treated individually. The amount of homeowner or renter assistance you get, will be a percentage of the property taxes on your home. This percentage is determined by the amount of household income, and by a schedule or rate established by the franchise tax board. Homeowner assistance ranges from 4% to 96% of your property tax. Renter assistance ranges from $10 to $240 for the year involved.

If you are receiving supplemental security income (which are SSI gold checks), or if you are receiving CalWORKS, these payments will not be reduced when you receive your homeowner assistance or renter assistance check each year. Homeowner assistance or renter assistance is not included as income or resources, in determining the amount of public assistance payments to which you are entitled.

If the full market value of your home is more than $34,000, your homeowner assistance will be a percentage of the taxes on $34,000 only. Any amount more than that will not qualify for assistance is available for taxes on your home and the land necessary for your home. Property taxes do not include improvement bonds, interest or penalties, or charges for services, such as weed burning.

You may receive homeowner assistance, even though you also claim a veteran’s property tax exemption or the homeowners property tax exemption.

A qualified rented residence must be your principal place of residence in California, such as a single family dwelling, a duplex or flat, an apartment, a hotel room, 'a mobilehome, a boarding house, or a convalescent hospital. If however you live in property which is exempt from property taxes, or property for which payments in lieu of taxes are not made, then you are not eligible for renter assistance.

Claim forms are generally available at any field office of the franchise tax board. If you meet all the qualifications, you must file a claim between May 16 and august 31, of each year. Refund checks are mailed beginning July 1 of each year, and most will be sent out by October 31 of each year. No refunds can be made before July 1, or until the new state budget is signed after July 1.

If you have received a homeowner or renter assistance check before, a new claim form is automatically mailed to you.

If you have never received a homeowner or renter assistance refund check before, you will have to begin the process by filing a claim. While the financial qualifications do change, if you feel that you meet the other requirements and want to know if you are eligible, you should get in touch with your local franchise tax board and ask them if you are financially eligible, and how you go about preparing a claim for homeowner or renter assistance. You may have to go in person if you need special help or assistance, but some other information can be given to you on the phone, and other information, such as the household income schedule, may be mailed to you to save you a trip to your local office. So, do call first and find out what you can. If you believe you may be eligible, you should find out at once how to help yourself get this extra financial assistance.

The homeowner assistance and renter assistance programs are administered by the California State Franchise Tax Board, whose offices are located in Bakersfield, El Monte, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Ana, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, Stockton, Van Nuys, and West Los Angeles. You may write to the Franchise Tax Board at Post Office Box 942840, Sacramento, California 94240-0040. You may visit one of the local offices which have just been listed, or you may telephone (800) 852-5711. FTB also has forms available at its website, You may also obtain information and forms through your local senior information and referral center.

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