Botched valuations

2014-08-28 00:00

WHEN pensioner Parvathy Naicker saw that the valuation of her council house had gone up from R375 000 to R910 000, she had an asthma attack.

Across in Woodlands, an 80-year old pensioner, who did not want to be named, fell apart when she found she was living in the most expensive council house in her street. Her fragile state took a further knock when the objection she submitted was rejected.

Her council house that has never been renovated was valued at R450 000.

Across the road, another council house in the same state as hers was valued at R290 000. Yet a neighbour who had carried out extensive renovations and whose home boasted a brick boundary wall, had the lowest valuation at R220 000.

Naicker could not understand how she could be living in a house valued at close to R1 million when it was made of hollow blocks, is semi-detached and plastered. The garage downstairs has a roll-up door that seems to be coming off its hinges. Even worse, the door is covered in grafitti — an indication that her neighbourhood is anything but an up-market suburb. When her son helped her prepare her objection they discovered that the other houses in the street, even those that had been renovated, were valued at between R300 000 and R400 000.

The Witness informed the municipal valuers of the pensioners’ plight.

Naicker’s monthly rates (with the pensioner’s rebate) was R170 previously. Her new rates, with the rebate is R430. Her government old age pension is R1 280. Her overall municipal bill including lights and water is now R735. This means that just over half of her pension will be going to the municipality.

The pensioner from Woodlands paid R122,85 for rates when her house was valued at R309 000. Now that it’s R450 000, she pays R185,50. She is yet to see the impact on her full utility bill and how much of her pension this will consume.

The valuer was asked what could be done about these cases, without waiting for the appeal process to be completed as they appeared to be genuine mistakes. The pensioners were seized by a new state of panic after getting their objection rejections; they did not know how they were going to afford to pay their next municipal account.

Valuer for the Msunduzi’s general valuation project, Martin Fitchet said both cases will be re-looked this week and revised notification of objection letters will be sent to them.

Municipal Valuer should give reasons to affected ratepayers

MSUNDUZI municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha addressed concerns raised by ratepayers over valuations.

• To those who said they were unaware of the process, she said the general valuation roll was made available for public inspection at various advertised venues within the municipality from March 28. These venues included municipal offices, the public library and its branches.

The roll was also published on the Msunduzi website. Two adverts ran in The Witness on March 17 and 24 advising the ratepayers that the roll would be available for inspection. In terms of the provisions of Section 49 Municipal Property Rates Act (MPRA) all registered property owners receive by ordinary mail a notice together with the extract of the valuations roll pertaining to the owner’s property.

The Section 49 notices were sent out on March 24. Ratepayers were urged to review the valuations of their properties and to lodge objections to any information included in or omitted from the roll.

Objectors had to submit objection forms by April 29.

• On the objection process, Mafumbatha said: The objector would receive a Notice of Decision from the Municipal Valuer advising of the outcome of the review process. Approximately 1200 Notice of Decisions have been sent to date. She said the City was working hard to process the balance of these by the end of August 2014.

The objector may then request reasons, in writing, for the outcome of the decision from the municipality.

The Notice of Decision will indicate the timeframes of these requests as well as any fees payable in terms of the MPRA Act 6/2014 section 53 (2).

Should a ratepayer still be dissatisfied with the review decision of the Municipal Valuer they can lodge an appeal. The ratepayer should approach the municipality to lodge an appeal against this decision on the prescribed appeals application form.

Mafumbatha warned that the MPRA requires that ratepayers must continue to pay their accounts while either an objection or appeal is being processed. Adjustments determined by the Valuation Appeal Board may result in a rates refund or the rate payer will be obliged to pay additional rates to the municipality.

CITY attorney Farouk Jasat has written to the Chief Whip of the IFP, Narend Singh asking him to put forward two proposed amendments to the Municipal Property Rates Act. This, after his own recent experiences with the Msunduzi Valuations process.

Jasat’s proposal is that municipalities should be compelled to have its main and supplementary rolls in both alphabetical and street name order.

He said one way to object is to provide comparative values of neighbouring properties, but this was difficult to do in Msunduzi because there was no valuations list according to street addresses.

His proposed amendment is for the register of properties to set out the valuation of every property in alphabetical, street and number order. Jasat’s second proposed amendment is based on a notion that it is unfair that people who objected to their valuations, have to pay to get the reasons on how the final decision was reached.

He proposed that when an increase takes place, the Municipal Valuer should give reasons to the affected ratepayers, before implementation of the valuation roll. Jasat argued that the valuer is performing an administrative function which falls under the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (Paja). He added that under the Paja, the right to be given reasons for an administrative action was both constitutionally and legislatively enshrined.

Jasat sent his recommendations to IFP MP and Chief Whip Narend Singh who has asked his MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa to take it to his Portfolio Committee on Local Government or directly to Local Government Minister Pravin Gordhan.

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