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Finance Department
Finance Department


A property transfer tax of 1.5 % is imposed on all transfers by deeds, instruments, writings 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 note, below, on BMC access)

Included here is information about:


From the date of recordation of transfer, an applicant will have 1 year to complete all seismic retrofit work and submit a Seismic Retrofit Verification & Refund Application to the Planning Department - Building & Safety Division. For further details, see the Seismic Retrofit Program & Refund Guidelines and the following information.

Seismic Retrofit Refund Program

The Seismic Retrofit Refund Program allows for up to 1/3 of the City of Berkeley transfer tax to be refunded for voluntary seismic upgrades to residential property. See also BMC Section 7.52.060.K. (see note, below, on BMC access)

The Seismic Retrofit Refund Program consists of 2 main areas:

1.  Completion of Seismic Retrofit Work and/or Requests for Extensions

Property owners have up to 1 year after the sale is recorded with Alameda County to complete the seismic work and file for the refund. The ordinance does allow for this deadline to be extended for good cause, for up to 1 additional year. Requests for extensions are handled on a case-by case basis, and must be submitted to the Finance Department no later than the initial deadline, and must be received in writing.

“Good cause” includes: 1) 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; 2) 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; and 3) serious illness or other extraordinary and unforeseeable circumstances that prevented the timely commencement or completion of the seismic retrofit work. 

“Good Cause” does not include 1) ignorance of the applicable City ordinances or regulations concerning the seismic retrofit refund provided in this chapter or state or local laws relating to the standards with which seismic retrofit work must comply; or 2) delays which were within the control or responsibility of the applicant. (Ordinance 6539-NS § 1, 2000; Ord. 6262-NS § 1, 1994; Ord. 6146-NS §§ 1, 2, 1992; Ord. 6072--NS § 2, 1991; Ord. 6069-NS§ 1, 1991; Ord. 5061-NS § 5, 1978) (see note, below, on BMC access related to these Ordinances)

2.  Processing the Refund

After the seismic work is completed the owner or the contractor must file a Seismic Retrofit Verification & Refund Application with the  Planning Department - Building & Safety Division (510) 981-7440. A City of Berkeley Building Inspector inspects the work, and approves or denies the application. If the Building & Safety Division approves the Verification Application, the Finance Department will either a) authorize the title company to release funds held in escrow, or b) issue a refund check if funds were not held.

To complete the Seismic Retrofit Refund process, you will need:

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Refund of Overpayment of Real Property Transfer Tax

You may file a claim for refund of OVERPAYMENT of Transfer Tax, apart from the Seismic Retrofit Refund process, see the following procedures and claim form. You have 1 year from the date of payment “under protest” to file a claim. (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:

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Note: For access to the Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC), links will take you to the City’s BMC site where you can browse the BMC in .pdf format, or search the BMC using Records Online. Search tips are available from the BMC site.  

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Finance Department, 1947 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94704
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