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As some municipalities in the rest of the country try to come to terms with an increased rates base, Cape Town appears to be a shining example of how a well-run administration can and should work. The only major hurdle in obtaining a rates clearance certificate in the mother city appears to emanate from the sellers themselves, who are causing the delays by not getting their rate affairs in order. Karl Sloth-Nielson from Webber Wentzel says that on average it takes 12 days from the time of payment for a clearance certificate to be issued. Obtaining the figures on an outstanding account takes approximately one week if the process is done manually, however, the amount can be obtained within a day if the process is done electronically. “Figures, however, are only valid for a month and if the seller does not place us in funds timeously, we need to apply for fresh figures.” He says the time that a transfer takes depends on the seller and purchaser’s co-operation in settling the amounts due and signing documentation when requested. Although the turnaround times appear to be efficient, Trevor Brink the director of revenue for the city says the city is currently implementing new systems to improve service delivery, which should be in place by October this year. “We also use an electronic platform for attorney’s where they can submit their applications and get the payment schedules as well as the Section 118 certificates electronically.” He says as per their service level agreement with the Cape Town Law Society, the turnaround time is 10 days, however, he notes that the average time it takes to supply the data is between three to five days. If problems do arise, the municipality contacts the relevant conveyancing attorney as soon as it becomes apparent that there could be a delay, furnishing reasons for the deferral. The municipality also holds quarterly meetings with role players, including the Law Society and Registrar of Deeds to discuss issues of mutual concern. Brink says this helps to form a better understanding of each other’s processes and procedures and to mutually find ways to improve the system. Brink notes that his office has received requests for help from struggling municipalities. The Cape Town municipality has acted proactively in spreading their administrative success regarding rates certificates to other municipalities by:

  • Responding to telephonic requests from other municipalities for assistance.

  • Entertaining visits from other municipalities.

  • Sharing their experience and ideas at workshops held by the National Rates Clearance User Group.

The economic climate suggests that property sales are improving once again. Any property boom that emerges in South Africa had better start in Cape Town, because at this stage it could possibly be a fizzle out like damp squib if the success thereof rested on obtaining rates clearance certificates from municipalities who appear to be struggling to operating the clearance systems that they have implemented. Article courtesy of and is taken from their July/August 2010 issue.

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