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Wednesday Nov 25, 2015

Apply for Durban rate rebate or lose out

Residents of Durban's affluent suburbs who own properties worth more than R1 million will have to apply for a rate rebate on their properties or risk paying more.

Ward councillors for Umhlanga, Durban North and Hillcrest said residents would not be happy with the municipal policy as it was likely to be an "administrative burden".

Already carrying a hefty tax burden, these homeowners would lose out if they were not able to successfully submit their applications.

The councillors said the system would have to work properly and be available at Sizakala customer service centres and online if the city wanted residents to apply.

According to the eThekwini Municipality's medium-term revenue and expenditure framework document for 2015/16 to 2017/18, all residential properties valued up to R185 000 are exempt from rates. For all other properties, valued above R185 000, no rates are charged for the first R120 000.

For a property valued at R1 million, rates are paid on R880 000, with a rebate of R120 000. The rebate has previously been calculated automatically by the city, but this has recently changed and the new policy is likely to come into effect in the next financial year.

The municipality's communication's head, Tozi Mthethwa, said the city was finalising a system to implement the rebate application for properties in this category.

"All affected property owners will be notified individually and via the media."

The rebate would be renewable annually once implemented and the property owners who were eligible for other rebates would have to apply for those in separate applications, said Mthethwa.

Last year, when the application process was proposed, the city's deputy head of treasury, Krish Kumar, said it was aimed at obtaining updated information from ratepayers. In a report in The Mercury, he said: "The application requests essential and recent information on our ratepayers that we require to effectively communicate."

At the time, DA councillor Tex Collins said the applied rebate meant people no longer had room to give false information.

"It simply means that the right people will get the rebate, leaving very little room for people to take chances," he said.

Collins said the city would also be able to determine whether people still lived on their properties for them to be eligible and if they did not, they would not get it.

If a homeowner died, the city would be able to charge rates on whoever the property was transferred to.

Kloof and Gillitts ward councillor Rick Crouch said yesterday the system would be an "administrative nightmare".

"The municipality is doing this because they know that people will either forget or won't want to go through the process."

He said the system should stay as it was. "The city should make it as easy as possible for residents and cut the red tape."

Crouch said he understood the city's argument that it was a way to get current information, but only certain residents were being asked to comply.

Umhlanga Rocks ward councillor Heinz de Boer said residents were opposed to applying for the rebate when the policy was initially discussed because they felt it would be yet another administrative burden.

De Boer said he was aware that the city was trying to update its information, which was "highly inaccurate" in some instances, but the application system would have to be efficient.

"The system has to work properly and should be online and available at all Sizakala centres."

Ivor Aylward, of the Bluff Alliance, a residents' association, said residents would not be happy.

"Why do some residents have to apply for something that others will get automatically?"

DA PR councillor Warren Burne, based in the Westville area, said while the city needed an updated database, he did not believe having a policy that only certain people must apply was "sensible or fair".

"Some residents are senior citizens who won't know how to apply online or would not be able to go to municipal offices. For these people to lose the rebate for these reasons would be unfair."

Durban North ward councillor Shaun Ryley said it was not known how the system would work.

"There could be some good elements, but if the application process is impractical and cumbersome then these would be negated."

The Mercury


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