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Monday May 21, 2018

Durban property valuations 'a scam'

As the city's financial year-end approaches and Durban residents brace themselves for increases in household tariffs, many are still awaiting outcomes to the objections they made to property valuations.

Property value plays a vital role in determining the rate each household should pay the municipality.

When the ethekwini Municipality released its third general valuation roll last year it encouraged property owners to inspect the roll and lodge an objection in instances where they felt the valuations were either too high or two low. The roll was open for inspection and objection from February 10 to March 31, 2017.

A general valuation is required to be undertaken at least once every four years in terms of the Municipal Property Rates Act.

Durban North resident Frank Schmidt was among those who lodged an objection, but he has not received any feedback. "I handed in my objection 14 months ago. I am beginning to think of this as a scam to line the pockets of the financially ailing municipality.

"How would they be able to reimburse the objectors in the case of thousands of successful objections?" asked Schmidt. "Rather play dead or declare all objections as having been judged unsuccessful?"

Chas Everitt International Property Group chief executive Berry Everitt said property owners in Johannesburg and Durban only had a short time in which to lodge objections to the new municipal valuations of their properties. The group offers free independent valuations to all owners who need supporting documentation for such objections.

"It is really important for homeowners to check any new general valuation rolls that are compiled by local authorities and file objections if they believe the valuation of their property to be wrong.

"If they don't do this, they could end up paying far too much each month or even being forced out of their homes because the new rates are unaffordable," he said.

Everitt said incorrect municipal valuations could skew the real estate market by making it difficult to sell properties in certain areas and causing them to actually lose value.

"There is a lot of red tape to deal with and there are always sceptics who say that contesting a new valuation is more effort than it's worth."

"But a relatively small investment of time could not only save an owner many thousands of rands over the next few years but also make the property more appealing to any future buyers."

When a property valuation was wrong, the rates the city charged based on that would also be wrong, meaning homeowners paid more than they should every month for at least the next four years, or until the property was sold.

"Property owners with plans to sell - including those who own commercial properties - need to be aware that an incorrect valuation could cost them a sale. Most prospective buyers want to know what charges are applicable to the properties they view and are put off if these are too high."

Everitt said although the new property rates that would be based on the valuations contained in the new general valuation rolls would not come into effect until July, it would be too late for property owners to object to valuations.

Durban North ward councillor Shaun Ryley said he had sent the questions to the council asking why it was taking taken so long for the municipality to respond to the objections.

"The objection process closed in May 2017. Since June, residents have had to pay rates on values seemingly arbitrarily inflated by 20% and 40% while the average property price increase from 2012 to 2017 is 10%, at most. So many delays are unacceptable; residents deserve transparency."

The city had not replied to questions at the time of going to press.

City Watch
Sunday Tribune


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