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Wednesday Mar 07, 2018

Joburg property valuation outcry continues

The outcry over property valuation increases of up to 5000% has forced the City of Joburg to reverse some of the hikes.

Roger and Doreen Hemp outside their Northcliff home.

Last week, The Star reported on a Joburg CBD building's value that shot up more than 700%, from R3 million to R25m. This increase has since paled into insignificance following the revelations of a Northcliff couple.

"An increase of 700% in municipal property valuations? That's nothing," exclaimed Northcliff property owners Roger and Doreen Hemp, who own a "fairly ordinary" house in the suburb. They got the shock of their lives when they received their new municipal valuation last month. Their property had been revalued 5 000% more, from R2.28m to R116m. "We are joking about it as it's so overvalued. I guess this puts last week's headline in The Star, referring to increases of up to 700%, in the shade," Doreen said.

The City of Joburg announced this morning that 8 000 Joburg property owners, just under 10% of the 880 000 owners whose property values were increased, had been revised before the end of the objection period on April 6.

Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba announced that these owners, whose values have been "blatantly" incorrectly increased, would be receiving section 78 notices with revised valuations.

"These are properties which have been identified by some additional 20 municipal valuers, who we have employed to assist with the objections. We have already started dealing with the objections even though the objection period only ends on April 6. We are trying to eliminate as many objections as possible through this early revaluation process, so we can expedite the process," said Mashaba.

The notices would be issued via email or post. "Unfortunately the notices will not be able to be uploaded to the website, purely because of the way the website was constructed. The option is being explored but cannot be guaranteed at this point, and residents should expect the notifications via email or the postal service," he said.

The revised valuations will give owners another 30 days to provide relevant information to be taken further into account during the review process. These included properties which have increased by 100% and more, said the mayor.

To date, about 4 000 objections have been received. The focus, the mayor said, was to ensure residents found the valuations process to be more responsive and efficient than in the past.

"The capacitating of the walkin centres is also being addressed to deal with the objections. In the past, objections and appeals have taken far too long to be resolved," he added.

A Berea flat owner, Mike Lingwood, also said he was shocked to learn that some units he owned in the derelict San Jose building, which have been empty for 14 years, have been revalued from R5 000 in 2013 to R305 000.

"The building has been completely vandalised, only a shell remains. Window frames, kitchens, bathrooms and flooring have been stolen. We are in dispute with the city over their billing of R270 000 a month for water in a building which has been bricked up to prevent squatting," he said.

Lingwood, who is a property developer, said the valuers, who the council had awarded a lucrative R99.8m tender to conduct the controversial valuations, had used only the top 10% of recent sales in areas, which were sales of upgraded buildings, ignoring basic properties with no improvements.

He encouraged owners to lodge their objections and go through the appeal process if necessary. "They should submit photos of their properties showing old kitchens and bathrooms, structural defects or anything which could affect the valuation of their properties," he said.

And 85-year-old Anne Mirchner, who owns two buildings in Bellevue, said she may have to abandon the flats because she would now have to pay R60 000 a month in rates.

The block, which was valued at R3.4m in 2013, was revalued at R20.4m. The second block, which had no previous valuation, was valued at R35.5m.

"This means that I have to pay the increase until objections can be finalised, excluding electricity, water and sewerage. I cannot pass the increase on to the tenants. The only option is to give up the buildings and have them taken over by hijackers. Both are looked after and are in good condition," Mirchner said.

A petition, #RatesMustFall, has been started and has about 1 500 signatories. Residents can obtain their valuations by calling 087 365 3094. Objections can made online or at the city's walk-in centres.

Anna Cox
The Star

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