Do you live on a double stand? If so, you might be in for a nasty shock. The City of Johannesburg’s valuations department has suddenly initiated a process whereby each stand now receives a separate valuation, even when the double stand only contains a single dwelling.
Let me break it down for you, according to my personal situation. I live on a double stand in Highlands North (2 different ERF numbers). As such, in the eyes of the law, I own two separate properties held under a single title deed. However, my house is built across both stands and, therefore, the property cannot be subdivided.
It seems that many of the older suburbs were set up like this. And for the past 70 years or so, there wasn’t any problem. I simply received two invoices from the City – one for each stand. The first invoice contained an amount for rates, based on the valuation roll. The second invoice contained billing for water, lights, sewerage and other services but did not reflect an amount for rates (the stand was valued at zero).
This makes sense. I own one house, so I should pay once for rates. Yes? Well, apparently not. Last month, my second stand abruptly reflected a valuation of R1.2 million, with an associated fee. This is in addition to my original municipal valuation on the first stand. In effect, that means I am now paying two amounts for rates based on a property that can only be sold as a single unit.
It seems that the long-term solution to this ‘double rates’ problem is to have my two stands ‘notarily linked’, but this is a legal process that takes time and can cost several thousand rand. I was looking for a more immediate solution to what seemed to be a simple misunderstanding – it’s just common sense, isn’t it?
So, I spoke to the valuations department and they were quite helpful. My query has been sent through to various authorities and I am awaiting an outcome. I’d like to thank all the people I contacted for replying to my emails promptly and trust that, together, we can work it out.
However, this begs a larger question: what about all the other people who are living on double stands? Will they have to lodge their own individual queries, or will the department make a correction that applies to everyone? I don’t know the answer to this question but I am concerned – being the stout, civic-minded chap that I am…
So, if you live on a double stand, check your statements. And if you are getting charged double rates, please get in touch by posting a comment below. My ward councillor has suggested that, legally, the valuations department cannot just change a dispensation that has been in effect for decades. As such, a court challenge may be in order.
I truly hope that the whole mess can be sorted out without dragging lawyers into the fray, but I have been advised to start collecting a list of names of similarly affected home owners – just in case. So, do let me know if you’re in the same boat and I’ll try to ensure that we approach this affair with intelligence and cohesion. I thank you [takes bow to tremendous applause, leaves room].
UPDATE (14/07/2012): It’s all very confusing – well, it would be because that’s it’s the City of Johannesburg. Nevertheless, it seems the long term solution is to have the stands consolidated, which is a legal process that requires a land surveyor and costs a couple of grand. I am still trying to work out exactly what this entails and how to proceed (although not everyone agrees that this is the correct course of action).
In the meantime, you need to object. I have had the following information from the CoJ: “Client is to object to the values on [your stands in your suburb] because this is a Supplementary 9 entry and the properties are encroached with each other”. That means anyone affected by this problem should lodge an objection with the valuations department by the end of the month, quoting the above phrase in the ‘Objection Details’ section (you can download the residential objection form here). I’m told you should personally deliver the objection form to the valuation department’s offices and get a case number. Alternatively you can email valuationenqueries@joburg,org.za and hope for the best. The physical address of the Valuations Department is 4th Floor, A Block, Metropolitan Centre, 158 Loveday Street, Braamfontein.
Finally, there’s another weird twist in this tale: this month, my municipal accounts have miraculously corrected themselves! Yup, I’m only getting charged rates on one of my stands (the other stand reflects a valuation of zero, just like before). And even more surprisingly, the double refuse charge about which I had previously complained has been fixed (long but associated story – I was getting charged a refuse collection fee on both stands even though I only have one bin).
Now, I don’t know how long this ‘accurate’ billing situation is going to last, and I’m still going to lodge an objection just in case. But check your latest bill and see if maybe, somehow, the CoJ has actually managed to nip this problem in the bud.
Good luck, brave suburban warrior. And keep me posted.