Can City Hall be stopped?
Posted Thursday, August 23 2012 at 01:00
- Rating laws require an authority like the City Council of Nairobi to establish a valuation court to consider and determine all objections
- City Hall published a second notice mid-December 2001 saying that it had levied the 2002 rates based on the 2001 draft valuation roll
- The rates, which were to become effective on January 1, 2002, were payable by May 31, 2002
On October 31, 2001, the City Council of Nairobi announced that the 2001 Draft Valuation Roll — the document that contains the value, size and location of a rateable property within the jurisdiction of a given local authority — was ready and open for public inspection at City Hall’s Valuation Department on the 4th floor of the Nairobi address.
The notice that appeared in the local dailies and signed by the then Town Clerk also invited all persons aggrieved either by either inclusion or omission of any rateable property in the draft valuation roll to lodge an objection within 28 days of the date of publication of the notice. They were required to pay a non-refundable fee of Sh500 per entry form.
Soon, it was pandemonium as thousands of property owners jammed City Hall in search of the objection forms.
Rating laws require an authority like the City Council of Nairobi to establish a valuation court to consider and determine all objections.
However, there is no limit to the period within which the court must be set up after the 28-day objection period expires. (Rating is the process of assessing the value of a given parcel of land for taxation purposes).
And so with this in mind, City Hall published a second notice mid-December 2001 saying that it had levied the 2002 rates based on the 2001 draft valuation roll.
This was even before the objections could be heard and determined. The rates, which were to become effective on January 1, 2002, were payable by May 31, 2002.
But something soon went terribly wrong for City Hall. A property owner by the name Jacqueline Resley filed a case in the High Court of Kenya challenging the decision of the City Council of Nairobi to publish the 2001 draft valuation roll and to levy the 2002 rates based on that roll.
As it turned out, the local authority had overlooked the requirement that before putting out a notice in the papers for the inspection of a new or draft valuation roll, it has to be first published in the Kenya Gazette.
To try to overcome the invalidity, the City Council of Nairobi published two notices in the Kenya Gazette on January 25, 2002.
The first notice dealt with the rate levy for 2002 under the Rating Act Cap 267, while the second notice dealt with the laying of the 2001 Draft Valuation Roll before the Full Council under the Valuation for Rating Act, Cap 266.
But it was a case of too little too late. Lady Justice Calpana Rawal, the judge who was hearing the case, is quoted as saying: “To say the least, I am exasperated with the slipshod and carefree manner in which the Council has purported to follow the provisions of both Acts which affect the proprietary rights of Nairobi residents. That action was a nullity and was not curable and could not be cured by publishing the very notices in the Kenya Gazette.”
And with that, the 2001 draft valuation was quashed, forcing City Hall to levy land rates on the basis of the old (published in 1982) valuation roll.
City Hall has never seen such an epic court battle with property owners since then.
However, a new slew of legal battles seems to be in the offing. After a widely publicised month-long grace period during which it waived interest rates and penalties to rate defaulters, City Hall says thousands of property owners have still not paid the rates.
In what is likely to be the battle of its life, the local authority says it is now ready to make good its threat throughout the month-long campaign that it would repossess the defaulters’ properties and auction them to recover the debts.