Professional man working at computer in a sunny room - Fixing incorrect property records in Santa Clara County - what do you need, who do you callWhat do you need to do about incorrect property records in Santa Clara County? Sometimes public property records are wrong or have missing information.

Info needed to rectify errors on the public record

What you need to do about incorrect property records in Santa Clara Co depends on what needs correcting. If your square footage is correct but the number of bedrooms is not, you may be able to phone and just tell the person over the phone what the issue is and it will be changed.

If the square footage of the lot size is not right, you’ll need documentation from a surveyor or another professional qualified to measure the parcel and document the calculations. That paperwork will need to be submitted, probably by email, but possibly in person.

In all cases, you need your parcel number for the most efficient help.  More on that below.

Incorrect property records in Santa Clara Co – who to contact

In Santa Clara County (San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Campbell etc.), you must go through the county tax assessor’s office to address these errors, and specifically, you need to speak with your property’s assigned appraiser. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. First, find your APN or assessor’s parcel number and keep it handy, as you will need it (also paper & pen).  You will find it on your property tax bill.  You can also find your APN online via the Santa Clara County website.
  2. Phone the Real Property & Appraiser Department at (408) 299-5300.  Someone there will ask you for your APN so that the correct appraiser can be contacted – I was surprised to learn that there are several dozen appraisers on staff! You can also try emailing them at RP@asr.sccgov.org
  3. From there, you’ll need to talk with your assigned appraiser and see what needs to be done.  He or she may need some documentation, may ask you some questions – just call and find out.
  4. More info can be found here, on their FAQ page: Santa Clara County Tax Assessor’s Office FAQ page. The phone directory for that office is here. But do yourself a favor and do not phone any other number besides  the -5300 one. I made that mistake myself and was passed from one department to the next, each person not understanding what needed to be done, and it ate up 40 minutes of my time. If you want to fix incorrect property records in Santa Clara County, it’s imperative that you call the appropriate number and get put in touch with an appraiser, or you may have an unpleasant experience, as I did.

Why are the public records on real property sometimes wrong?

Lots of things can cause the problem with incorrect public property records.  Here are a few potential reasons why the records could be incomplete, inaccurate, or missing altogether.

  • Original data entry error (a typo) – when everything is correct except one item, such as the number of bedrooms, it could well be that the wrong number was submitted on a form or a mistaken key hit at entry.  (I think this happened to my own house, where we have 4 bedrooms but the records said 3.)
  • Addition or expansion to the house – sometimes these are not done with permits & finals (and won’t show up on the county records for that reason). Other times, the work was permitted and finaled, but the paperwork lost at the county or city level.  This is not so uncommon (and the cause of not a few upsets).  It is imperative that home owners keep all of this paperwork themselves and not rely on any other office to keep perfectly accurate records.
  • Lack of concern about some details, such as the actual lot size.  While an entire tract may have 6000 square foot lots listed on the public records, it’s possible (probable) that the parcels aren’t really all the exact same size.  Homes built on “pie shaped” lots or on the inside of cul-de-sacs may well have much larger areas but for whatever reason, the entire subdivision reads as if they all have the same lot.  I have a couple of times sold homes with lots said to be 6000 SF when in fact they were closer to 11,000.  In selling, that can help you to get more money for your home!  In buying, if you purchase a property with a larger lot but is sold with numbers reflecting the smaller one, it could be money in the bank.

Some folks will tell you not to worry about correcting the public records (and in some cases, it’s not easy to do).  But real estate consumers are savvy and have access to the official data on your lot and house quite easily now.  If you say your home is a certain size or has particular features but the public records don’t reflect it, that puts a question in the potential buyer’s mind: what’s wrong? Why don’t these line up?  Best to do what you can to get the reality of your property in line with the public records so it won’t be either a problem or a rush to fix it later.

Once in awhile, someone will tell me that they do not want to correct the county’s official public records for fear that it would trigger a reassessment of the home’s value and increase the taxes.  I am not allowed to give tax (or legal) advice, but if this is worrying you, call up the tax assessor’s office and see what they have to say.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

 

Related reading to How to fix incorrect property records in Santa Clara County

When are property taxes due in Santa Clara Co? (this site)

What is a plat map, and what can you learn from it? (this site)

What is a preliminary title report? Why does it matter? (this site)