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Building and Safety Division
Building and Safety Division

Guidelines for Transfer Tax Reductions For Qualifying Seismic Work

To be eligible for a reduction in the real estate transfer tax, building permits submitted for qualifying seismic strengthening work must comply with technical guidelines and administrative procedures described below.

The work must "improve seismic safety" as defined below and in Berkeley Municipal Code Section 7.52.060. Other regulations and procedures, not described here, can be found on the Finance Department's Seismic Retrofit Refund page.Nail Gun - Retrofit

Note: 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.

Permit Application Information for Transfer Tax Rebates

  1. A separate permit application and plans are required for qualifying seismic strengthening work.
  2. Building permit applicants are required to state on the face of the permit application in the scope of work section “seismic safety work for transfer tax reduction”.
  3. Initially, “Plan Set A” submittals will be plan checked within 5 working days.  More complex submittals will be plan checked within 20 working days. These turnaround times will be evaluated and adjusted as necessary once the program is underway.
  4. Upon plan check approval, the front sheet of the plans will be 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”.
  5. Seismic work that facilitates future improvements or enlargement of existing spaces or upgrading other than seismic is not eligible for the transfer tax reduction.


Seismic Strengthening Work shall consist of one or more of the following:

  1. Repairing or replacing foundations – use prescriptive foundation requirements of CBC Chapter 18 (where applicable) or engineered plans
  2. Securing of chimneys or stacks – engineered plans required
  3. Removing of unreinforced masonry chimneys – plans required for replacement work
  4. Anchoring of existing water heaters – per Department of State Architect handout
  5. Cripple wall retrofit – use Plan Set A if applicable, or engineered plans
  6. Other work demonstrated to the Building Official to increase substantially the capability of these structures to withstand damage in an earthquake – decided on a case-by-case basis.


PACE Financing is one option for financing seismic retrofits.

Standards to Improve Seismic Safety

 Seismic Strengthening Work shall comply with the following standards:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. For buildings on the City’s Inventory of Potentially Hazardous Unreinforced Masonry Buildings, corrective work required by BMC Chapter 19.38.  OR
  4. For buildings on the City’s Inventory of Potentially Hazardous Soft-Story Buildings, corrective work required by BMC Chapter 19.39


In order to qualify for the rebate of the transfer tax, contractors or homeowners are required to schedule inspections as follows:

  • For Plan Set A: Two inspections are required:
    • 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)

                Note: See Plan Set A - Detailed Inspection Guidelines (PDF)

  • For all other seismic work for transfer tax reduction:
    • Follow normal inspection procedures.
    • Final inspection including installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (Must be installed in accordance with building code requirements).

Affidavits for smoke and carbon Monoxide detectors are acceptable on a case-by-case basis as determined by the inspector.

No work shall be covered or concrete placed, prior to inspection and approval.


Qualifying buildings are any structures that are used exclusively for residential purposes, or any mixed-use structures that contain two or more dwelling units.

Seismic strengthening work not meeting these standards will not be eligible for the transfer tax reduction.

Procedures for obtaining tax reductions remain the same. Please visit the Seismic Retrofit Refund page or call the Finance Department at 981-7200 for more information.

For further information, call the Building and Safety Division at (510) 981-7440.

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Building and Safety Division, 1947 Center St, 3rd Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704
Questions or comments? Email: Phone: (510) 981-7440
(510) 981-CITY/2489 or 311 from any landline in Berkeley
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