Transfer Tax Rebates for Seismic Work
Current or former owners of buildings used exclusively for residential purposes, or mixed-use buildings with at least two residential units can receive a rebate of their real estate transfer tax for voluntary seismic upgrades completed prior to or within a year of sale.
Sellers or buyers of buildings used exclusively for residential purposes, or mixed-use buildings with at least two residential units can receive a rebate of their real estate transfer tax for voluntary seismic upgrades.
Building sellers or buyers can receive a rebate of up to 1/3 of the City of Berkeley's base 1.5% transfer tax for voluntary seismic upgrades expenses incurred on or after October 17, 1989. The rebate does not apply to the enhanced 1% transfer tax (Berkeley Municipal Code 7.52.040C).
Confirm your improvements are eligible under the program
Contact the Berkeley Building & Safety Division of the Planning Department at (510) 981-7440 or firstname.lastname@example.org in advance to make sure your improvements are eligible.
You can receive a Seismic Retrofit Rebate for one or more of the types of seismic strengthening work listed below:
- Bolting of foundations to mudsills
- Installing shear walls
- Work to repair or replace substandard foundations
- Securing of chimneys and stacks
- Removal of unreinforced masonry chimneys
- Anchoring of existing waters heaters (State guidelines)
- Bracing of cripple walls
- Other work that will substantially increase the safety of a building in case of an earthquake, as determined by the Building Official on a case-by-base
Seismic work that facilitates future improvements or enlargement of existing spaces or upgrades for other than seismic are not eligible for the transfer tax reduction.
To qualify for the rebate, the seismic strengthening work must comply with the following standards:
- Plan Set A applicable to one- and two-family dwellings (per chart on Plan Set), OR Appendix Chapter A3 (1-4 units) or A4 (5 or more units) of the current California Existing Building Code; OR
- FEMA seismic retrofit plan sets:
- Plan set for Crawlspace Dwellings, P-1100-2A; OR
- Plan set for Living Space garage dwellings, P-1100-2B; OR
- Plan set for Masonry Chimneys. P-1100-2C; OR
- Plans (and calculations) prepared by a California registered civil or structural engineer, and meeting one of the following standards:
- 75% of the horizontal force levels as established by Chapter 16 of the current California Building Code; OR
- 100% of the force levels as established by Chapter 23 of the 1976 Uniform Building Code. OR
- For buildings on the City’s Inventory of Potentially Hazardous Unreinforced Masonry Buildings, corrective work required by BMC Chapter 19.38. OR
- For buildings on the City’s Inventory of Potentially Hazardous Soft-Story Buildings, corrective work required by BMC Chapter 19.39
Obtain a building permit
Apply for a building permit, following the steps below:
- Submit a separate permit application and plan set for qualifying seismic strengthening work.
- Include “seismic safety work for transfer tax reduction” in the scope of work section of your building permit application.
- Once your plan check is approved, you will receive a copy of your plans, stamped with the following statement: “Seismic strengthening work covered under this permit is eligible for the Transfer Tax Reduction provided in BMC 7.52.060 upon approval of final inspection”.
After your building permit is approved and as construction progresses, you will need to schedule inspections so the City can confirm you are following the plans you submitted.
For Plan Set A, and FEMA Plan Sets P-1100-2A and P-1100-2B, you will need to schedule two separate inspections:
- Rough Inspection, which includes verification of:
- Foundation bolt installation
- Installation of blocking and framing
- Final Inspection, which includes verification of:
- Plywood panel installation on cripple wall
- Metal hardware installation
- Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors (must be installed in accordance with building code requirements)
For all other seismic work:
- Follow normal inspection procedures.
- Final inspection including installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (must be installed in accordance with building code requirements).
Apply for your rebate
Once the seismic work is complete, submit a Seismic Retrofit Rebate Application to email@example.com to apply for your rebate. Include copies of receipts for work completed to document the rebate amount. If the project included non-seismic work, please provide documentation showing the portion of costs eligible for rebate under this program.
The Planning Department’s Building & Safety Division will review your application. If approved, the Finance Department who will issue a check directly to the applicant.
Partially completed work and extensions
If the seismic retrofit work is not completed within one year of sale, the buyer can apply for a rebate for partially completed work or apply for a good cause extension.
To apply for a rebate for partially completed work, submit a Seismic Retrofit Rebate Application showing the dollar amount of work completed up to that date.
To apply for a good cause extension, make a request in writing to the Finance Department within a year of sale stating why you could not meet the deadline. Good causes include:
- The inability of the applicant, after a prompt and diligent search, to find and retain the services of an architect, engineer, contractor or other service provider whose services are necessary for the seismic retrofit work.
- Unforeseen and unforeseeable circumstances such as a significant change in the scope of the seismic retrofit work due to circumstances in the field, which could not reasonably have been known earlier.
- Serious illness or other extraordinary and unforeseeable circumstances that prevented the timely commencement or completion of the seismic retrofit work.
If approved for an extension, you may receive up to an additional year to complete the seismic retrofit work.