Transfer Tax Refunds for Seismic Work
New owners of buildings used exclusively for residential purposes, or mixed-use buildings with at least two residential units can receive a refund of their real estate transfer tax for voluntary seismic upgrades completed within a year of sale.
New owners of buildings used exclusively for residential purposes, or mixed-use buildings with at least two residential units can receive a refund of their real estate transfer tax for voluntary seismic upgrades. You can receive a refund of up to 1/3 of the amount you paid for the transfer tax. You have up to one year after the sale is recorded with Alameda County to complete the seismic work and file for the refund.
Confirm your improvements are eligible under the program
Contact the Berkeley Building & Safety Division of the Planning Department at (510) 981-7440 or email@example.com in advance to make sure your improvements are eligible.
You can receive a Seismic Retrofit Refund for one or more of the types of seismic strengthening work listed below:
- Bolting of foundations to mudsills and installing shear walls
- Work to repair or replace substandard foundations: Use prescriptive foundation requirements of CBC Chapter 18 where applicable or engineered plans
- Securing of chimneys and stacks: Engineered plans required
- Removal of unreinforced masonry chimneys: Plans required for replacement work
- Anchoring of existing waters heaters: Follow the State guidelines
- Cripple wall retrofit: Use Plan Set A if applicable, or engineered plans
- Other earthquake strengthening work: Work that will substantially increase the safety of a building in case of an earthquake, decided by the Building Official on a case-by-base basis
Seismic work that facilitates future improvements or enlargement of existing spaces or upgrading other than seismic is not eligible for the transfer tax reduction.
To qualify for the refund, 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
- 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, 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 refund
Once the seismic work is complete, submit a Seismic Retrofit Verification and Refund Application to apply for your refund. Include copies of receipts for work completed to document the refund amount. If the project included non-seismic work, please provide documentation showing the portion of costs eligible for refund under this program.
The Planning Department’s Building & Safety Division will review your application. If approved, the Finance Department who will either a) authorize the title company to release funds held in escrow or b) issue a refund check if funds were not held.
Partially completed work and extensions
If the seismic retrofit work is not completed within one year of sale, you can apply for a refund for partially completed work or apply for a good cause extension.
To apply for a refund for partially completed work, submit a Verification and Refund 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.