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Wednesday Sep 26, 2012

Joburg owners of smallholdings angry over new sewer levies

Thousands of Joburgers who live on smallholdings have been slapped with a R419-a-month sewer-connection levy on their rates bills, despite the fact that they don't even have a sewer connection.

The angry residents victimised by the sudden mischarge are the owners of smallholdings whose properties have been recategorised from agricultural to residential in terms of the supplementary valuation roll.

Beulah Thomas, an estate agent who deals with properties in areas where there are smallholdings, and David Potter, a ward councillor, said they had numerous complaints from angry residents in areas such as Kyalami, Carlswald, Fourways and Chartwell who have found the sewer-connection levy and other charges suddenly added to their bills.

"There is no sewer connection, and these properties do not enjoy any services from the council at all - no street lighting, no street cleaning and no sewer connections - yet they are being charged the same residential rates as properties that do have these services," she said.

Added to this, some residents had suddenly found their accounts missing rates and Pikitup charges.

"The City of Joburg accounts are getting more and more of a mess. I tried to call the council on numerous occasions today, but they didn't answer their phones," Thomas said.

The council has admitted its error and pledged to reverse it.

Geoff Makhubo, the City of Joburg member of the management committee responsible for finance, said the system followed the business rule that all properties that are categorised as residential automatically have sewer charges, based on the stand size.

This meant that some smallholdings newly categorised as residential properties were automatically charged the standard billing, which was a mistake. However, these charges would be corrected and reversed, he said.

The council revalued about 25 000 properties in the past few months in terms of the supplementary valuation roll.

All smallholdings that did not fall into an agricultural category were reclassified as residential. This meant that, because the agricultural rates are lower, some property owners suddenly found they were being charged as much as 300 percent more, with the new rates being backdated.

Many such property owners have objected, claiming they do not get services from the council.

Many Bryanston properties have also faced huge increases of up to 60 percent on the supplementary roll.

The revaluations have now been finalised, and the City of Joburg last week said property owners whose properties were reflected in the supplementary valuation roll would be notified in writing of the outcome.

City spokesman Nthatisi Modingoane said the following types of changes are reflected:

  • New properties registered as subdivisions, consolidations, new sectional title units, etc (a change of about 32 percent).

  • Property category change from vacant to improved where new buildings have been developed (a change of about 44 percent).

  • Valuation changes where additions have been completed (a change of about 16 percent).

  • Other changes such as rezoned properties and category changes (a change of about 7 percent).

    Modingoane said the revaluation of properties where additional property information was supplied could result in a valuation decrease or increase.

    He said a 0.06 percent decrease was expected on 1 600 properties, while a 0.01 percent increase was anticipated on 301 properties.

    But other errors have crept in too, with some properties having inexplicably had their classification changed from residential to business.

    The council said property owners who disagreed with the valuation reflected in the supplementary valuation roll could object.

    Legislation makes ample provision for any person to object, provided the objection took place in the prescribed manner and within the prescribed objection period.

    Objections were considered by the municipal valuer and a valuation appeal board. Once the inspection period had been closed, no more objections could be entertained.

    The supplementary valuation roll would be open for inspection and objections until November 30 at Metro Centre, 158 Civic Boulevard, A-Block, 4th floor, as well as on the city's website:

    Queries can be forwarded to valuationenquiries@joburg

    The Star

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