City will decide what your home is worth

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Johannesburg - The City of Joburg will decide what your property is worth according to a mass appraisal system, regardless of the condition of your home and irrespective of what estate agents value it at.

And don’t bother to object, because even if you succeed, an automatic, computer-generated system will kick the successful objection out if the value is reduced by 10 percent.

This is the reality for thousands of Joburg property owners who have objected to the 2013 valuation of their properties.

Not only will you not be informed about this decision, you’ll not get another chance to object.

A Bryanston resident recently objected to his new property valuation of R3.6 million, which doubled from the R1.8m of the last roll.

His objection was upheld, meaning the city’s valuer agreed with him, and his value was reduced.

The matter then went on automatic review to the Valuations Appeal Board because the value had been reduced by more than 10 percent.

According to attorney Chantelle Gladwin, representing the resident, on review the board reinstated the original valuation without giving him any notice or opportunity to object or to be present at any hearing.

“This took place without the city ever having visited the property. The owner objected because his property was valued at much more than its true worth on the open market because the house was assumed to be of similar size and quality to others in the area.

“As it turns out, the house was smaller, older and of a much poorer quality and standard than the typical house in the area. The consumer submitted estate agent valuations to prove this, but these were ignored and the initial mass appraisal valuation reinstated,” she said.

She took the matter to the South Gauteng High Court in Joburg on review. The city argued that mass appraisals were reasonable, because the system was designed to be reasonable and should, therefore, be trusted to be right.

“The city’s argument was that it doesn’t matter whether it is correct or not, as long as the decision was reasonable,” she said.

A mass appraisal system is a computer-generated one to calculate the average selling price using information such as location, size and price. It works on the principle that similar properties should be worth the same. “While this can be reasonable because the city cannot inspect every property, there are thousands of properties that do not fit the typical bill of other properties in the area, and should be considered separately.

“If this is upheld, the legal consequences would be absurd. It would mean the city can disregard all valuation evidence, such as estate agents’ independent valuations, and negate the entire process of objection and review. It would allow the city to simply reinstate the original valuation if above 10 percent. This would mean any challenge to any decision would always fail.

“Effectively, any property owner aggrieved by a decision of the board to ignore his evidence of valuation, would be ill-advised to attempt to exercise his constitutional right to challenge the decision and, therefore, render the entire valuation objection/appeal/automatic review and high court review system a waste of time and money,” she said.

The city received about 80 000 objections. Although not all would be affected, the outcome of this case would have serious consequences on the rights of ratepayers who had objected, or would object, to city valuations in the future, she said.

The City of Joburg did not respond to a request for comment.

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