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Monday May 05, 2014

Gupta mansion hit with backdated property rates bill

The Gupta family, which received an unprecedented rates rebate bonanza on a huge house, has been hit with backdated billing accounts for their property.

The mansion in Saxonwold, one of Johannesburg's most expensive suburbs, was valued at only R499 000 in last year's valuation roll, raising the ire of Joburg ratepayers, because the property had mysteriously plummeted from a previous valuation in 2008.

Estate agents, who operate in the area, termed the valuation 'laughable' and 'outrageous'. At the time the city said the Gupta house was one of nearly 80 000 properties whose valuations the council had objected to.

The updated City of Joburg general valuation roll posted on the council's website shows that the property, one of four adjacent stands bought by Arti, Atul, Chetali and Rajesh Gupta, is valued at R10.95 million. But the property remains undervalued, according to one estate agent who asked not to be named, given additions carried out since 2008 when it was evaluated at R7m.

The city's finance department spokesman, Kgamanyane Maphologela, said the Gupta home was reflected in the first supplementary roll published last year for inspection.

Objections to the supplementary roll were still being considered and objectors would be notified of the outcome.

'The city can confirm that the municipal accounts for the two properties mentioned have been adjusted and corrected on the city's billing system,' said Maphologela.

'Both accounts were backdated to July 1, 2013.'

Two weeks ago, the council published a second supplementary roll for public inspection, but the Gupta home does not feature in it. The property - set on a 4 207m² plot - was worth R559 000 in May 1994 when it changed hands and R950 000 in October 1995 when South Africa's property market languished in the doldrums. The house is part of other houses in the compound that have been valued at R7m (on a 4 059m² stand), R10.1m (1 723m²) and R3.79m (3 687m²).

According to the updated 2013 general valuation roll on the city's website, the combined value of houses in the Gupta compound is R34.95m.

Last year, the council turned down the Guptas' application to try to legalise their estate, following 'illegal' extensions that residents derided as 'ugly' and 'not in keeping with the character' of the suburb.

The family had applied to the city to amend their previously-approved building plan on one of their properties to consolidate two sites and simultaneously re-subdivide in order to comply with town planning zoning provisions.

This week, the city said action was being taken, six months later, behind the scenes to deal with the legality issues of the Saxonwold Drive home.

A resident said this week: 'The building represents an illegal action by the owner and is punishable by law as a criminal offence.' He asked why the council had not followed due process and instructed that the illegal building be demolished.

Saturday Star


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