Valuation roll to be released

2008-02-18 00:00

City ratepayers are preparing themselves for a shock when the new valuation roll, based on market value, is released on Thursday. This is a key phase in the implementation of the new Property Rates Act, which comes into effect in Pietermaritzburg from July.

Msunduzi municipal valuer and manager: real estate and valuation, Blackie Zwart, said that at this stage it is not about how much rates will be. The amount will only be known when the municipality finalises its budget and advertises its tariffs or rate randage.

For now, ratepayers will have a chance to ensure that they do not pay more than they need to, by checking whether their properties have been correctly valued. If dissatisfied, ratepayers will be able to lodge objections.

Controversy has followed the implementation of the new rating systems in most cities as ratepayers have been anxious that the new valuation, based on how much their property would sell for on an open market, could mean massive increases in rates.

Such has been the interest in Durban, which released its valuation roll last week, that the city’s website server crashed several times.

According to reports, the Durban valuations went up by an average 200% to 300% and Pietermaritzburg homeowners can expect similar increases.

Zwart said it does not mean that if the property values go up by these percentages, rates will go up by the same. He said rates paid will be based on the tariff set by council.

Zwart and Msunduzi valuation manager Don Shaw explained how the objection process works. The new valuation roll will be open for inspection until March 31, and ratepayers have until this date to lodge objections.

Objectors will have to provide properly motivated reasons or probable grounds for why they believe their property has been incorrectly valued. This could involve providing proof of inconsistencies and/or an opinion by a professional, such as an estate agent.

The basis of the new valuation is market related and as this is a figure that fluctuates, the municipality set a fixed date, July 1, 2007, as the benchmark.

Shaw asked ratepayers to remember this when reviewing the roll. Even if prices were booming at the benchmark date and may have since slumped, ratepayers will have to live with the values for the next four years, after which valuations will be adjusted.

Zwart says a useful guideline when considering whether to object or not is to check whether there is equity in terms of other properties in your area.

“A way to assess this is to talk to neighbours whose house is similar to yours and check whether they’ve been assigned the same value.

“Objections have to be lodged by filling in an official form that can be obtained from the municipality.

“The municipality has trained staff to assist those with physical disabilities or who are illiterate to fill in their forms,” said Zwart.

Help will be available at the following municipal offices: in Bombay Road, Northdale, and Ashburton, the Greater Edendale Development Initiative (Gedi) office in Imbali, the old Edendale/ Vulindlela office, Ashdown and the Sobantu municipal office,” he said.

The completed forms go to the municipal valuer for investigation. The act stipulates that the objector must continue to pay rates while the objection is being processed and finalised. If adjustments up or down are made, the ratepayer will either be repaid or will have to pay in.

If an adjustment of more than 10% up or down is made, the matter has to be referred to the Valuations Appeals Board. If ratepayers are dissatisfied with the decision of the municipal valuer, they have the right to lodge an appeal with the Valuation Appeals Board. The cost of the appeal is R50.

Zwart and Shaw are encouraging ratepayers to engage in the process and to contact the rates helpline at 033 392 2296 if they have queries.

“At present the roll is correct to the best of our knowledge, but the objection process will give us a chance to further refine its content,” said Zwart.

He also reminded people that they have a democratic right to participate in the process and not to feel intimidated as there will be help all along the way.

“If persons phone and say they are not too sure about something, it is not our job to stand up against them or belittle them, but rather assist them to achieve a valuation roll that is correct.”

Both men take pride that the process has gone smoothly in the city so far and that there has been significant co-operation.

“Ratepayers … have allowed the data collectors to achieve an outstanding 80% access to properties in relation to the national norm of only 24 to 32%. Congratulations to citizens of Msunduzi,” said Zwart.

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