In order for a conveyancer to register a transfer at the deeds office, they are required to lodge a rates clearance certificate (RCC). For both sectional title and freehold property, the rates clearance figures for rates and refuse charges will be incorporated. In the case of freehold property, the rates clearance figures will include the utility or consumption accounts too.
Please note that the obtaining of a refund from the City Council by a seller and the opening of new accounts by a new owner can be a lengthy and frustrating process. There are numerous examples of incorrect and misleading advice being provided at both City Council call centres and walk-in centres.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CONVEYANCER
Pursuant to the registration of transfer and as part of the post registration procedure, the deeds office updates its records of ownership – this can take up to four weeks. Once the deeds office has updated its records, the conveyancer will send a letter to the City Council confirming the change of ownership. This letter will enclose a copy of the RCC, rates clearance figures, proof of payment of these figures and a printout of the deeds office records showing the change in ownership.
The conveyancer has no further involvement in the calculation of the refund payable by the City Council to the seller save for the fact that the City Council will make payment of the refund to the conveyancer. The conveyancer will pay this to the seller after receipt.
CITY OF JOHANNESBURG
OPENING OF NEW ACCOUNTS BY THE PURCHASER
At the outset, please bear in mind that for both sectional and freehold property, a new owner should budget for the monthly City Council expenses even if no accounts are received in the months after transfer.
The City Council will begin to charge the new owner from the 1st day of the calendar month after registration and the first account that is eventually received will include all charges outstanding and request immediate payment of same.
In respect of sectional title property, the COJ will automatically see to the opening the rates account. If there seems to be an undue delay, the new owner or an agent on their behalf may attend to the walk-in centres or call the call-centre to follow up with the process. Please bear in mind that the utility accounts will be administered by the body corporate of the scheme.
In respect of freehold property, the COJ expects a new owner to either itself or by way of a proxy, attend to one of the walk-in centres to request the opening of the new utility accounts in respect of the property. It is suggested that the earliest that a new owner should attend to a walk-in centre is six weeks after registration of transfer.
The Deeds Office also independently notifies the City Council of transfers that take place. If a Purchaser attends to a walk-in centre prior to the Deeds Office giving this notification, the COJ will not assist in any way.
When attending to the walk-in centres, the new owner should bring their identification document and confirmation of registration of transfer (i.e.a letter from the conveyancer, a deeds office printout or copy of the new title deed). The reference number provided by the COJ at this time must be kept for future reference.
A new owner may mandate Schindlers or another private rates consultant to assist them in opening the rates and utility accounts in respect of the property.
Should a new owner of freehold property choose not to take any active steps to open their utility accounts it will most likely lead to a lengthy delay in, a failure by the COJ to open the utility accounts. This leads to a greater risk of the disconnection of services to the property.
CLOSING OF ACCOUNTS AND THE RATES CLEARANCE REFUND
The payment of refunds by the City Council is a process that can be fraught with tension and delay. In some cases, the refund is paid in good time and in other cases a court application is required to compel payment.
It is generally accepted that a rates refund will be paid by the City Council sooner if active steps are taken to follow up with the COJ on the process.
In order for a new owner to follow up personally they would need to attend to a walk-in centre with a document confirming transfer, identification document, RCC, rates clearance figures and proof of payment of those figures to the COJ. The reference number provided by the COJ at this time must be kept for future reference.
The closing of a seller’s accounts and payment of rates refund will not be processed by the COJ unless the new owners accounts have been opened and linked to the property.
For freehold property this includes the rates and consumption/utility accounts. A seller may appoint Schindlers Attorneys to attend to this service at a nominal fee. This work is mandated to a separate department who will attend to the matter.
Please note that even with professional assistance it is an unpredictable process to finalise.
The COJ will always pay the refund to the conveyancer who will then refund the seller.
In order to draft this article, the City of Johannesburg was approached for information as were various city council consultants and other sources. The information offered by the COJ varied from person to person.
It is to be understood that in dealing with the COJ sellers and purchasers are not going to always find consistency.
The various time periods and procedures are going to vary to some degree. Should a satisfactory result not be achieved the service offered by Schindlers can be taken up or the services of a city council consultant be utilised. Please contact us for recommendations in this regard where necessary.
EKURHULENI METROPOLITAN MUNICIPALITY
The requirements of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality are the same as that of the COJ above.
The contact details for Ekurhuleni are as follows:
Call centre no: 0860 543 000 Web site address: www.ekurhuleni.gov.za
Each customer care centre has its own email address, direct number and physical address listed on the above website.
In instances where electricity is supplied to the property directly by ESKOM, the onus rests on the seller/s and buyer/s respectively to finalise and open their accounts.
Sellers are to contact the ESKOM Customer Call Centre on 08600 ESKOM (37566). Sellers are to provide the call centre with final meter readings, the date of vacation of the property, all relevant account details and future contact details.
The seller’s application to close the account must be stamped by the bank to verify the banking details that Eskom will make any refund payment to.
The call centre will issue a reference number which the Sellers are to provide to the Purchasers. This is referred to as Eskom’s “Move Out” process.
The Purchasers are required to contact the call centre and provide the aforesaid reference number. The Purchasers will then be required to provide the call centre with all their relevant information to enable the call centre to open the new account.
The Purchaser will complete a “voice contract” with ESKOM in respect of the new account and will be advised of the deposit/s payable. This is referred to as Eskom’s “Move In” process.
Please note that ESKOM will not allow the finalisation of the Seller’s account unless all arrears and current charges are paid up to date.