Field Discovery of New Construction
When the voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978 freezing the base year value of property, they did allow for reassessment of property upon change in ownership and “new construction.” The assessor division learns of most new construction through copies of building permits from the County or municipalities. We review the permit to see if the activity appears to trigger a reassessment. On smaller permits, the property owner is mailed a statement of new construction which alerts us to the completion date and cost of the new construction. Our appraisers usually visit new residences, major additions and other large projects to obtain field measurements and discuss specifics of the project with the owner.
Because a primary responsibility of the assessor is to be fair, our appraisers sometimes discover new construction which is done without a permit. Unpermitted construction is known as “bootleg” from the practice of smuggling alcohol in tall boots during Prohibition. Bootleg construction can include components that are hazardous to the occupants and visitors. Obtaining a permit, even after the fact, is something every property owner needs to do because of stringent real estate disclosure laws. A subsequent sale of the property could result in legal action by the buyer against the seller for not revealing that construction was done without a permit and because the construction may not be up to code.
Our field appraisers over the years have discovered entire houses, second stories, over 1900 square feet of new living area and other major additions done without a permit. In some instances neighbors have alerted us anonymously to illegal construction because they know that it is unfair for them to be assessed for permitted new construction while their neighbor is not being assessed.