RAG AND OUTA ON THE FLAWED AND ERRONEOUS 2021 TO 2025 EKURHULENI PROPERTY VALUATION ROLL
Following the submission of a vast number of objections to the 2021 to 2025 Ekurhuleni Property Valuation Roll published in February last year, the City of Ekurhuleni (“the City”) agreed to meet with the Bedfordview Residents Action Group (“RAG”) and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (“OUTA”).
On 15 February 2022, we met with the City’s Executive Mayor Tania Campbell to discuss a possible way forward on the valuation roll impasse that affects so many residents throughout Ekurhuleni.
The City confirmed that there is no reasonable way to reset the valuation process and start afresh, instead the City has adopted an approach to remedy the wrongs caused by the valuation process. At this point in time, a review of the process will result in further delays and cause more unwarranted administrative issues for both the City and its residents.
Nevertheless, the City has acknowledged that the valuation process is faulty and that they will do all within their power to ensure that the correct outcomes are reached for property owners across Ekurhuleni.
The City also confirmed that they have thus far finalised approximately 39 000 objections (while approximately 429 are still outstanding), with varying outcomes, and are in receipt of approximately 1 796 appeals to be dealt with by the Valuation Appeals Board following the appeal submission deadline of 3 March 2022. The meagre number of appeals received by the City can be attributed to the poor communication and disconnect with its residents and does not necessarily imply that residents are satisfied with the outcomes of their objections – quite the contrary.
We contend that lack of communication and general indifference towards residents cannot be blamed on politics and inheritance of a broken system. RAG and OUTA reiterated to the City that communication is key to instil confidence among residents. The City conceded that they have failed in this regard and will adopt a more proactive communication approach going forward.
The pertinent points of our engagement with the City can be summarised as follows:
• The City agreed that they will not proceed with any form of termination notices if an account has been flagged following the lodging of an objection. This means that services will not be terminated if a property owner has made a payment arrangement with the City (RAG and OUTA proposed the tendering of an 8% increase) pending the outcome of an appeal.
• The City also undertook to expedite the process by recommending that appeals be heard in bulk as opposed to individually – a point which RAG and OUTA agree with.
• For residents that failed to object to their increased property value timeously, the remedy highlighted in section 78 of the Local Government: Municipal Property Rates Act remains an option at any point in time. This remedy takes the form of a municipal query as opposed to an objection. However, the outcome of a query will not fall within the same timeframe as the objection and appeal process.
• The City informed us that they plan to host an open day on 18 and 19 February 2022. Residents are urged to attend and consult municipal officials on their valuation queries, objections or appeals as the case may be. Unfortunately, timeous communication to residents was lacking and we are sceptical whether such open days will reach as many residents as the City intended.
• The deadline of 3 March 2022 has been set for the submission of all appeals. The City is aware that some residents have called for an extension. In agreement with the City, RAG and OUTA submit that further extension will delay finalisation even further and is not in the best interests of Ekurhuleni residents.
• Although this deadline may impact the timeframes as contemplated by the Act, we urge residents who have not appealed to the outcome of their objections to do so by the deadline – irrespective of whether adequate reasons have been received. The City undertook that appeals received before such date will be heard by the Appeals Board. RAG and OUTA will require full disclosure on the names and qualifications of those members of the Appeals Board.
• All processes and guides have been uploaded to the City’s website – residents are urged to log onto the website and familiarise themselves with the relevant forms and processes if they have not already.
• We highlighted one of our main concerns to the Council, which is the issuing of Clearance certificates if a resident who has appealed wants to sell his property in the interim period until the appeal is heard. Residents simply cannot afford to pay an amount on a clearance certificate which is clearly erroneous, having accrued interest. The entire economy and property industry will be severely affected should the Council not have a strategy in place to deal with interim property sales.
Although the resolution of the valuation roll impasse will require strenuous processes and commitment from the City, we believe that the City’s attitude is sincere. Should the City let the people of Ekurhuleni down (again), be assured that RAG will seek to hold the City and its officials accountable.
Since RAG and OUTA engaged with the City on the valuation roll last year, many residents have saved thousands of rands on their bills by following the objection processes and exercising their rights accordingly. As a separate course of action, our attention is now turning to the corruption and ineptitude underlying the Valuation Roll. We have liaised with several investigative journalists who have already uncovered information which will lead to a multitude of potential claims about the company and individuals, including Council officials who were behind this debacle which has caused our residents immeasurable stress, and cost them time and money.
For further information, please contact RAG (Bedfordview Residents Action Group) chairperson, Marina Constas by emailing email@example.com or call 082 788 5469