The Customer Might Be Right

Private Property South Africa
Property Professional

The time has come for municipalities to take a long hard look at service delivery and start to communicate with ratepayers: if they don’t the implications could be disastrous for everyone. There are a number of hoops that sellers have to jump through before they can get their hands on the money generated by the sale of their home. An electrical compliance certificate, an entomologist’s report stating that the property is free of wood borer as well as a rates clearance certificate. Much has been written about the importance of these documents and until recently getting your house in order, so to speak, was a fairly straight forward process. Unfortunately, if one of these areas is neglected, transfer cannot take place and like a house built of cards, the whole lot could come tumbling down leaving the buyer and the seller in a suspended state of animation. The news that transfers of property in Johannesburg were being delayed because rates clearance certificates were not being issued sent shock waves around the country and suddenly everyone realised just how vulnerable the system has become. While the rates clearance certificate issue hasn’t yet become critical in the Durban area, some conveyancing attorneys are concerned by the news emulating from the rates department in the city. Gavin Gow, of Gavin Gow Incorporated, says his firm has been advised of some of the problems the department is experiencing, including staff shortages and a lack of training. “Certain staff members remain extremely helpful and understand the importance of having certificates issued in a timeous manner. Others unfortunately do not realise the implications the delays cause.” Gow says they have been experiencing intermittent problems for the past year, but the problems have become more noticeable since the introduction of individual rates on sectional title units. Maryke Prinsloo from Dykes van Heerden’s Amanzimtoti office believes that while the situation is not as severe as it is in Johannesburg, those who do experience poor service delivery should stand up and protect their rights. “Delays in registration cause corruption of data relating to statistics at the Deeds Office. Another concern is we are nearing the rates year end, which means matters will be rejected shortly, due to the lapsing of clearance certificates. Should this occur, sellers will have to bear additional expenses.” The municipality has reportedly been faced with a number of challenges in the rates department including a fire in its computer room as well as the promotion and resignation of senior staff members. At this stage, according to Maryke Prinsloo, it takes between 7 to ten days for certificates to be issued. However, she says more and more applications are being referred to the plans department to verify improvements. “In an effort to avoid delays, sellers should ensure their house plans are in order before they put their homes on the market.” Other parts of KZN also appear to be affected and some attorney’s report delays in the Umtzezi and Utukela Municipalities in Escourt, as well as in the Hibiscus Coast Municipality on the lower South Coast. While it may be good news to sellers that some of the municipality’s staff members are committed to their jobs, it may be time for the organisation to take a long hard look at their personnel, improve training facilities and, perhaps most importantly of all, communicate with their customers. Delays after all don’t just affect the buyer and the seller, but have an impact on the amount of money pouring into government coffers.Article courtesy of and is taken from their July/August issue.

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