eValuations called to book

2011-04-12 00:00

FOUR years after its implementation, the Municipal Property Rates Act (MPRA) is proving more of a headache than a solution for ratepayers.

At the heart of the problem are shockingly high rates increases that most residents are expected to pay.

According to ratepayer organisations, this is because of the way in which valuations are carried out coupled with the failure of municipal officials to apply their minds when deciding on the rates randage.

Residents are finding that the values of some residential properties have more than doubled, while others worth millions are valued in the thousands. This, coupled with a high rates randage, is going to make rates unaffordable, they complain.

Also up in arms are farmers in the uMngeni Municipality, who say that valuations do not take into account the nature of different farming operations and farm sub-divisions. They claim that these flawed valuations could result in farming in the area becoming unaffordable.

Robin Barnsley, president of the KwaZulu-Natal Farmers’ Union (Kwanalu), has called for details of the qualifications of the valuers to be made available, notably whether they are registered as professional valuers with the South African Institute of Valuers.

So far the valuation problems are evident in municipalities like uMngeni and KwaDukuza — among the first to implement the MPRA.

Now, four years later when new valuation rolls have to be drawn up as required by the law, they are faced with the same problems that led to widespread protests when the act was first implemented.

Ratepayer organisations in these municipalities are questioning the methods used by eValuations, the company contracted to carry out the valuations.

The organisations describe the valuation rolls prepared by eValuations as deeply flawed and want them recalled or audited.

uMngeni ratepayers want an audit of their roll, while organisations on the North Coast believe the roll should be set aside so that property owners can prepare and have a new valuation roll implemented in 2012.

According to residents, uMngeni Municipality has two rolls available — one posted on January 21 and signed off by the municipal valuer and the other posted on March 25.

They are confused and don’t know which one to respond to as eValuation said in the local newspaper that the valuation roll was never withdrawn.

Ratepayer organisations say they are shocked at the differences. Their own investigations show that more than 3 000 changes have been made that reflect a value change of over R2 billion in the roll posted in March.

Democratic Alliance councillor Tim Lindsay-White says flawed valuations coupled with the proposed rates randage of 1,22 cents for every rand would result in a 46% average rates increase for eight out of every 10 residential properties in the town.

The hardest hit will be Howick West with an average increase of 60% and Winterskloof at 68%.

Another complaint by residents is that transfer of ownership changes have not been incorporated into the new roll.

Resident Judy Bell says her property, which was transferred into her name in June 2009, is still under the previous owner’s name on the roll.

She said that in the complex where she lives four of the seven properties have not been updated, the oldest going back to 2007.

Lindsay-White says vast changes were made to the supplementary rolls produced in terms of the municipal turnaround strategy, yet this information has been ignored in the new roll.

He says official objections from two years ago — with more than 1 500 submission queries — have been overlooked.

He agrees with ratepayer organisations that an audit of the roll has to be carried out.

SIVEN Dorasamy of eValuations responds: “With regard to the issues raised on the valuations of farms, eValuations undertakes the valuations … based on market value in terms of the act.

“There are no flaws in the valuations of farms. Should there be any queries with the way sub-divisions etc. were valued, we encourage the farmers to contact or meet with us to resolve their concerns and perhaps obtain a better understanding of the processes we follow in determining market value.”

Dorasamy said objections must be submitted to the municipal valuer. “With regard to the issue of three valuation rolls on the website, eValuations does not maintain the uMngeni Municipality website.

“However, there are two general valuation rolls on the website, which are a full title roll and a sectional title roll, both effective from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2015.

“Just for the record, there are distinct differences between general valuation rolls and supplementary rolls which are on the website. The supplementary rolls are currently not eValuations’ responsibility.”

Dorosamy denied that the staff of eValuations were under-qualified.On the comments of people not being qualified to do valuations, this is incorrect, he said.

“eValuations is currently the largest property valuations company in the country owned by people of colour. Although not owned by valuers, we have a philosophy of ensuring that everything is driven by processes aligned to legislation … Apart from using internal staff, we employ the services of external valuers to supplement the valuer resource constraint that we have in the country.”

“To date we have valued in excess of 3,5 million properties throughout the country. Furthermore, our valuers are invited to make presentations and speak at international conferences, and we have received accolades for these from the institutes.

“We are confident that there are ill-informed groups of individuals, competitors, politicians and ratepayer organisations that do not understand the processes undertaken when compiling valuation rolls for municipalities … In terms of Section 50 (2) of the Municipal Property Rates Act, you may only lodge an objection against a property and not against the roll itself,” said Dorasamy.

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