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Finance Department

 Real Property Transfer Tax

A property transfer tax is imposed on all transfers by deed, instrument, writing, or any other document by which any lands, tenements, or other interests in real property are sold, located in the City of Berkeley, which are, or is granted, assigned, transferred, or otherwise conveyed to or vested in a purchaser, or purchasers thereof, or any other person or persons, by his/her or their direction. For details, see Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC) Chapter 7.52. (See below note on BMC access.) 

On November 6, 2018, City of Berkeley residents passed Measure P which increased the City’s tax on the transfer of real property with a consideration over a certain threshold. 

The ordinance was officially adopted on December 11, 2018 by the Berkeley City Council, and it took effect on December 21, 2018. The measure will expire on January 1, 2029, unless reauthorized by the voters prior to that date. 

Beginning December 21, 2018, the City’s transfer tax rate is 1.5% for properties with a consideration up to $1.5M and 2.5% for transferred properties with a consideration over $1.5M. The $1.5M threshold will be adjusted annually to capture approximately the top 33% of such transfers based on transfers that occurred in the 12 months preceding September 1 of the preceding year. However, the threshold cannot be reduced below $1.5M, meaning that the tax on properties transferred for $1.5M or less would remain at 1.5%, notwithstanding any adjustment.

The revenues from the increased tax will be used to fund general municipal services and could be used for homeless shelters, navigation centers, mental health support, rehousing, rental subsidies, and other services for people experiencing homelessness including but not limited to homeless seniors, transition-age youth, the long-term homeless, and disabled homeless; and staffing costs associated with implementing these programs.

Seismic Retrofit Refund Program

The Seismic Retrofit Refund Program provides refunds for voluntary seismic upgrades to residential properties. Up to 1/3 of the base 1.5% transfer tax rate may be refunded on a dollar-for-dollar basis, for all expenses incurred on or after October 17, 1989 for voluntary seismic upgrades to residential property. This program applies to structures that are used exclusively for residential purposes, or any mixed-use structure that contains two or more dwelling units. See also BMC Section 7.52.060.K. (See below note on BMC access.) 

Applicants have up to one year of the recordation of transfer to complete all seismic retrofit work. After the seismic work is complete, the owner or the contractor must file a Seismic Retrofit Verification & Refund Application with the Planning Department’s Building & Safety Division. Upon approval, they will forward the application to 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.  

The ordinance allows this deadline to be extended for good cause for up to one additional year. These requests are handled on a case-by case basis and must be submitted in writing to the Finance Department no later than the initial deadline. 

For more information: 


- Read: Seismic Retrofit Program & Refund Guidelines
- Read and complete: Seismic Retrofit Verification & Refund Application
- Visit: Planning Department - Building & Safety Division
- Call: (510) 981-7440

Refund of Overpayment of Real Property Transfer Tax

If you overpaid your transfer tax, you may file a claim for refund. You have one year from the date of payment under protest to file a claim per Government Code Section 935; BMC Chapter 7.20. see note, below, on BMC access) 

To file a Claim for Refund of Real Property Transfer Tax, you will need:
  1. What is Measure P?

    Measure P increased the real property transfer tax from 1.5% to 2.5% for property sales and transfers over $1.5M, adjusted annually to capture the top approximately 33% of transfers. It will raise an estimated $6M to $8M annually for general municipal purposes such as navigation centers, mental health support, rehousing and other services for the homeless, including homeless seniors and use. A Homeless Service Panel of experts will also be established. 

  2. What is the new tax rate structure?

    For property sales or transfers up to $1.5M, the transfer tax rate is 1.5%.

    For property sales or transfer over $1.5M (subject to change on January 1, 2020), the transfer tax rate is 2.5%.

    Each rate applies to the full consideration value. 

  3. When does it go into effect and when will it be enforced?

    The measure was approved by voters on November 6, 2018.

    The ordinance was officially adopted on December 11, 2018 by the Berkeley City Council.

    The measure took effect on December 21, 2018 and will expire on January 1, 2029 unless reauthorized by the voters prior to that date. 

  4. How does this impact the Seismic Retrofit Refund Program?

    Applicants may claim up to 1/3 of the base 1.5% transfer tax rate on a dollar-for-dollar basis for all voluntary seismic upgrades to residential property. For more information, please refer to BMC 7.52.060K. 

  5. What will the increased revenue be used for?

    This revenue will be used to fund general municipal services and could be used for homeless shelters and other services for people experiencing homelessness. 

  6. Where can I find more information?

    - Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC) Chapter 7.52, Real Property Tax
    - Ballot measure
    - Special Council Meeting – Discussion of ordinance
    - Call: (510) 981-7205

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