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January 8, 2009
3:06 PM

CONTACT: Equality California (EQCA)

Vaishalee Raja, Communications Director
PHONE: (916) 284-9187

Kevin de León Introduces EQCA-Sponsored Legislation to Protect Home Ownership for Same-Sex Couples

Bill Would Allow Unmarried Homeowners to Avoid Property Tax Increases Upon the Death of a Loved One

SACRAMENTO - January 8 - Assembly Member Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), Chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, introduced Assembly Bill 103 today, which would allow two people, including same-sex couples, who co-own a home together to avoid an unfair property tax increase upon the death of one of the co-owners. The bill is nearly identical to an EQCA-sponsored measure that passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Under existing law, whenever there is a change in home ownership the home is reassessed at its current market-price value, and the new owner must pay property taxes based on that value. Individuals are excluded from this law if they are the spouse, domestic partner, or relative of the deceased. However, this exclusion does not protect co-tenants who are unmarried or unrelated, making same-sex couples particularly vulnerable to losing their homes when a partner dies. AB 103 would protect unmarried couples from the unfair burden of increased taxation when one partner takes over property ownership.

“Without this legislation, surviving partners are subject to unfair property tax reassessments that could force them out of the home they have lived in for years, if not decades,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “This situation is especially tragic for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender seniors who may not have retirement plans or supportive family members to rely on in times of need. This difficult economy and the high foreclosure rate make matters even worse,” Kors said.

“This is an important step to protect unmarried individuals when they are most vulnerable, after a loved one dies,” stated Assembly Member de León. “Without this legislation surviving partners are faced with the unfair burden of increased taxes on their homes, forcing some people to have to give them up. That is an appalling situation; people who live together and are unmarried, whether by choice or because of the law, should be treated equally to married couples.”

Board of Equalization Vice Chairwoman Betty T. Yee stated, “I applaud Mr. de León and Equality California for championing this important measure. It acknowledges the true diversity of families and households in California and will keep homeowners, particularly elderly individuals, in their homes when their co-owner dies.”

To qualify for the exemption, the bill will require that co-tenants have lived together in the home for at least one year. The bill next moves to the Assembly Rules Committee and will be heard in a policy committee in early Spring.

Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians.


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