Catastrophic Loss

Under Pennsylvania law, catastrophic loss is any damage to a structure due to a fire or other natural disaster that results in real property value being diminished by 50% or more. In order to qualify for a reduction in property assessment, the property owner must file an application within 6 months from the date that the catastrophic loss occurred, or within the remainder of the calendar year, whichever is longer.

Catastrophic Loss Application(PDF, 792KB)

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of damage constitutes a 50% reduction in value?

Examples include but are not limited to: A major fire that makes the home uninhabitable or a flood that causes foundation damage. Both could constitute a 50% reduction. In cases where the amount of structure damage is unclear, the property owner should file the application since there is a limited time to do so.

Can the cost of damages to appliances, flooring or furniture be included?

No. Personal property loss is not included, such as appliances, flooring, or furniture. A flood that fills the basement and destroys appliances, for instance, will not generate a 50% reduction because it does not damage the structure of the home.

Is there a fee to apply?

There is no fee to apply.

Besides the application, does the property owner need to provide anything else?

Supporting documentation is important. This can include a report from the fire department or insurance company, photos, permits for repair, an estimate of damages, a notice of condemnation or any other items that reflect what occurred at the property.

How long will the process take once an application is submitted?

There is no set timeframe. The average process takes 2-4 weeks depending on the information provided with the application. If more information is needed, the process can take longer.

Will the county contact the property owner’s insurance company?

No, all insurance correspondence must be handled by the owner directly.

Will someone come out and visit the property and damage?

Yes, an assessor will visit the property.

Does the property owner need to be present when the assessor visits the property?

It is not required, but it is preferred. The property owner can answer questions that would otherwise need to be provided in follow-up once the assessor visits the property.

How will the property owner be notified of a date and time when the assessor will visit the property?

The property owner will be called prior to the review by an assessor using the contact information supplied on the application.

If approved, how will the other taxing bodies be notified of the reduction?

The Office of Property Assessments will notify all three taxing bodies (county, municipality and school district) of the determination.

If approved, will there be a refund if property taxes have already been paid for the year?

A tax credit will be issued that is calculated from the time of the loss until the end of the calendar year will be provided by all three taxing bodies upon notification by the Office of Properties Assessments. The credited amount varies based on the date of the loss. The property owner will also receive an assessed value change notice for the year following the catastrophic loss.

If taxes have not yet been paid, the county Treasurer’s Office will issue a new bill that reflects the credited amount.

If denied, are there other options?

The property owner will receive a Special Appeal Form with the denial determination letter. Instructions and the filing deadline will be included in the letter.

For additional questions or information, please call 412-350-4636 (INFO) and select option 2.