Q: On April 5 of this year I transferred money to my checking account, wrote a check to the Los Angeles Tax Assessor for our property taxes, and mailed it in. At the same time, using the same mail box, I mailed a property tax payment for my elderly mom. Her property tax payment was negotiated by the Tax Assessor on April 9 (a day before the deadline of April 10); but mine not until April 21. The County has sent me a $500 penalty for late payment. Now what?

-R.S., Manhattan  Beach

Ron Sokol

A: You put the payment in the mail on time, but the County may well take the position it is when they receive and negotiate the check. If so, and you are penalized, you can appeal the penalty. There is a process through email at penalty@ttc.lacounty.gov, which you can read about on line at ttc.lacounty.gov. If the initial appeal is unsuccessful, my understanding is you can then arrange to pay the fine, but also pursue a further appeal to seek a refund (through the Assessment Appeals Board).

It would seem reasonable that mailing the payment on time is sufficient, particularly since you say you mailed your mom’s payment at the same time through the same mail box (and her payment was timely processed). Unfortunately what may seem logical in this instance may still not persuade the Tax Assessor’s office. In fact the Tax Assessor discourages taxpayers from making payment too close to the deadline. Thus, an option in the future is to pay on line. But, everything else aside, fairness ought to guide the outcome.

Q: I inherited a home after my parents passed away. Why was it reassessed?

-R.C., Los Angeles

A: When you inherit a real property from your parents, you are to fill-out a “Transfer of Property between Parents/Children form” with the Los Angeles County Assessors Office. Otherwise, the Assessors Office will reassess the property. You can read further about this online at asessor.lacounty.gov.

Q: We are clearly the victims of a real estate fraud. Who can we contact?

-L.J., Van Nuys

A: One option is to contact the Real Estate Fraud Section of the Department of Consumer Affairs: (800) 973-3370. Further information is available on line at dca.lacounty.gov.

Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach attorney with more than 35 years of experience. His column, which appears in print on Wednesdays, presents a summary of the law and should not be construed as legal advice. Email questions and comments to him at ronsesq@gmail.com.

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