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City of Joburg, please get your house in order!

Thousands of sectional title residential properties may be affected by erroneous categorisation.

Owners of sectional title residential properties that were incorrectly classified as businesses during the recent valuation process by the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) may face an uphill battle to get this corrected and may have little choice but to pay their outstanding bills to avoid having their services cut off, even though the amounts may be multiples of what they rightfully owe.

The problem seems to be the result of an erroneous interpretation of the CoJ’s rates policy and affects residential sectional title units that were developed on land zoned for business purposes, even though the units were correctly categorised prior to July 1 when the new valuation roll took effect.

In a letter, Sihle More, head of the CoJ’s property unit, notes that the zoning determines the category of property. The highest permissible zoning determines which category is applied. However, where a property is used for residential purposes, but zoned for other purposes, the owner may apply that residential rates be levied.

Yet the Municipal Property Rates Act defines residential property as “a property included in a valuation roll … in respect of which the primary use or permitted use is for residential purposes …” At the same time, the city’s rates policy for 2018/19 states that “all rateable property will be classified in a category and will be rated based on the category of the property from the valuation roll which is based on the primary permitted use of the property”.

Rates Watch director of valuations Ben Espach estimates that several thousand units could be affected.

While owners had an opportunity to lodge an objection against the new valuation roll prior to its implementation in July, owners who only checked the new market value – and didn’t realise that a sectional title flat had been categorised as a business – may have had a severe shock when their bills arrived in July.

I am one of these owners.

The valuation of my property – a small residential sectional title unit in Johannesburg’s north-western suburbs – rose by roughly 18%, but because it was recategorised as a sectional title business, the monthly rates bill jumped from R406 to R1 296. Despite a lengthy call to the call centre in late July and submitting an application that residential rates should be applied to the property on the same date – and lodging an application that a high density residential rebate should be applied a month later (residential developments with a density of more than 80 units per hectare qualify for 5% discount on their property rates) – I received a bill of R3 972 on October 4. This is despite paying total rates of R1 406 between July and September.

On October 4, the CoJ notified me that unless I pay the outstanding amount immediately, it would issue an instruction to cut off my services, and would institute legal action.

Espach says he has dealt with cases where categories that were previously corrected during an appeals process have now been changed to businesses again.

He says the city may cut off a resident’s services even where an appropriate amount of money has been paid to them. From July 1, properties were valued at a certain market value and categorised a certain way, and the rates are based on these results. An objection should have been lodged against the incorrect category.

Where owners have objected, and unless in arrears, their accounts have been flagged and they may continue to pay an amount equal to their previous rates bill, and the city won’t threaten legal action or cut off their services.

But for people like me who only realised that the categorisation was incorrect after the deadline, this is not the case, he says.

“The risk is that your services will be cut off,” he says.

One could allow the legal process to run its course, but services will likely still be cut off before a court date can be arranged, Espach adds.

Residents could also approach the council to arrange a payment plan to avoid services from being cut off, but this would only provide relief for amounts already outstanding and may only kick the can down the road.

In these instances, requesting that residential rates be applied is probably an owner’s best bet, but this may still be a slow process, and may only provide a temporary solution as the incorrect categorisation will remain a problem each time the valuation process is repeated, Espach says.

Using an external rates specialist to remedy the classification can cost anything between R1 700 and R5 200 and the process can take months to complete, without any guarantee that it will be successful.

Kutlwano Olifant, stakeholder manager in the office of the MMC at the CoJ, says the property in question (mine) is a sectional title complex that is built on land that is zoned “business 2”.

“Zoning is the permissible use that is aligned to the piece of land, and this can only be changed by the owner of the land through an application process with the Development Planning.

“The mistake was in the General Valuation 2013, however, it has been corrected so that the city accounts are correct, and that there is alignment between the General Valuation 2018 and the billing system.

“It should be noted that the client or owner of this property has applied in July for the rebate and once captured, this rebate will be backdated from date of application.”

Olifant says the city received over 20 000 applications for all different rebates that had lapsed as well as new ones.

“The team is working through the applications, and will inform the clients as they finalise the applications.

“There are a number of sectional title units that were incorrectly categorised in the previous 2013 General Valuation, these errors have now been corrected and the clients’ needs to apply.”

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This should be a simple matter to sort out by a competent town council. Check if other owners in the scheme is on the same tariff scale. Could be a new BEE thing. European surname attracts higher rates.

There is one way to stop all this nonsense, like e-tolls lets with hold our money. A blanket refusal to pay rates and services, no violence but resistance protest. These rates and taxes should be scrapped they just fleece the ordinary citizens.

Before you make a decision to withhold rates check with someone who has not paid their rates and find out how quickly they cut off your electricity and water and how long it takes to reconnect – person in our area had his electricity cut off and they took 2 weeks to reconnect and to crown it all his electricity was cut off in error it should have been his neighbours

LOL Next time tell them you are no longer van rensburg but khumalo

Pity you feel that way “van rensburg but khumalo”. Remember Khumalo, your neighbour, pays the same Rates as you. The black middle class is on the increase; therefore Khumalo’s will be in the same boat as you.

We in a country where the rich NEEDS to subsidise the poor area; otherwise the poor areas will be slums. You know that don’t you? When this happens they crime and all the unsavory stuff will happen faster than normal.

Also accept that you need to subsidise the poor areas; otherwise you will go crazy with hate. Peace.

If you say your name is Khumalo and you vote ANC they turn on your water and electricity permanently and take your name off the list to receive bills. That’s how we roll in South Africa these days plus they criticize those who pay and complain. Eish, so sad.

Affected people can fight this absurdity individually and get nowhere; alternatively you approach OUTA which has a division which specializes in local government to pursue this matter.

A competent municipal manager would have sorted this out immediately.

And don’t forget to donate to OUTA on a monthly basis. Any amount which can be as little as your bank charges will no doubt be appreciated. I see OUTA becoming more and more involved in class action type issues between incompetent government and the individual. Let’s support them.

Agreed !!!…….

We live in KZN and are paying rates of R1200 a month – we are not connected to Water-bourne sewerage nor do we have pavements in our road. Unfortunately you’re just going to have to suck up the increase like the rest of us. Someone has to pay for social grants, free education and Jacob Zumas legal bills! Sorry it has to be you/us

Welcome to the ‘corrupt rates club’. Mangaung Metro had been over-charging sectional developments for years after a Johannesburg company was appointed by Ace Magashule & Co to re-value properties in Bloemfontein. Retirement villages now being charged as ‘commercial properties’ which is leaving pensioners absolutely destitute. All Municipalities and especially Metro’s only in it for the money.

The reality:

Your Government is at War with You.

“On October 4, the CoJ notified me that unless I pay the outstanding amount immediately, it would issue an instruction to cut off my services, and would institute legal action.” Please explain to me how most of Soweto can get away with not paying their utility bills without being ‘cut off’ but in any other suburb, this is what happens.

Apparently, 90% of Soweto does not pay rates & taxes, or for utilities and those are excluding the ones that steal water and electricity.

This is not sustainable.

So much for Ubuntu. Another South African myth.

It is called violence. All those ‘liberation’ years has created militant masses who won’t blink to burn tyres and create chaos.
When last have you seen a riot or burning tyres in areas which subsidise Soweto?

Ratepayers are too worried about the next Springbok game than their futures. The problem is ratepayers are just not aggressive and militant enough to bring this regime down!

In 2013 my general valuation showed my unit (1 of 39) as being Section Title – Residential. I lodged an objection to latest general valuations done and also attached my supporting document from 2013 showing Sectional Title – Residential. I then asked when it had converted to Business – in what period ie when between 2013 to 2018 was it changed.

To date no response.

CoJ is still a disaster! It amazes me how no-one is able to collect money from Soweto for Eskom but threatening those who have been paying ALL the time have to be subjected to this?

SA is a communist state and some are considered more equal than others

I reckon if everyone stops paying at the same time CoJ will be dust in a few days. They don’t have money nor resources to jail everyone!

In addition, it is time for a class action action these delinquent municipalities! If we all got OUTA to pursue this, CoJ will have to yield to those carrying this country, taxpayers and NOT voters!

DA is going to take a knock in the next election. They’re too busy chasing new voters and disrespect the people that supported them in the last election. Ratepayers are tired of hearing about their budget problems when they just took on security guards at three times the going rate.

The DA has become so focused on appealing to a broad base of support that they are no longer capable or willing to stand up for their core constituency, the middle class. They seem very happy to burden the middle class with unsustainable costs and increases so that they can subsidize and appease a broader voter group, but this is extremely short sighted and will not end well for all concerned as the core issue of corruption and non payment for services is not being addressed.

Based on my experience, JHB was better off under an ANC controlled council. The roads in my area are deteriorating by the day where holes are dug and cables laid across the road by council subcontractors but not retarred for over a year now. My rates were also increased by 70% based on incorrect valuations and despite lodging an objection with 16 pages of supporting evidence in April, I’m still getting billed the higher rates. While only anecdotal, all the opinions I’m hearing from my family and friends is that the DA is going to loose a lot of votes from the beleaguered middle class come 2019.

This is yet again part of the dysfunctionality of the municipality.

Just get it right.

No refuse removal last week, yet we still pay for it. Water and electricity come and go at random. Roads are a mess. Crime is out control. Cops extorting bribes from citizens. What, exactly, are the politicians and municipal managers doing all day? It really can’t be this hard to run a city properly. Enough excuses and blaming everyone else. Do your jobs. Or resign and clear the way for someone else to do it properly.

I’ve got some news – a harsh bit of reality – for those who wish for things that have been broken to be fixed and for authorities (such as the City of Joburg) to get their house in order: It is not going to happen.

Typical of a government entity – easy and quick to make the slip-up, hell of a task to fix it if at all

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