The Durban municipality in South Africa (SA) has announced that it is to issue rates clearances live over the Internet. This is expected to be a huge step in clearing the current backlog, and Durban is the first to embrace the locally developed technology.

From April 2004, attorneys will be able to obtain the rates assessment of a property in the Ethekwini Municipality directly through their conveyancing software, without having to deliver or collect any documents from the rates department. This is as a result of a development by Lawyers Access Web.

This automated Web-based technology was introduced to the industry by Lawyers Access Web (L@W) at a conference held in Durban late last year. At present L@W provides an electronic switching service to the legal fraternity, linking close to 2,000 attorney firms throughout SA with Standard Bank, FNB and Absa Home Loans divisions. This effectively facilitates the transfer of approximately 80 per cent of all new bonds registered.

According to Trevor Coppen, founding director of L@W, providing rates clearance over the Internet is the way of the future. “The new system will enable municipalities to get on top of their administrative backlog, and provide a more efficient and streamlined service to the legal profession operating within their area,” he said. “The recent move to link attorneys with municipalities is a step towards providing a secure, all-encompassing electronic switching service to the legal and property sector. “

In due course this technology will be extended to provide electronic rates clearance certificates to the conveyancer. L@W is also engaged in extending the facility to estate agents, with the long-term objective of facilitating the entire registration process electronically.

Johannesburg, Cape Town, Nelspruit and Ekweleni will also be adopting the process this year, and all agree that it will go a long way towards ending the existing problem in their municipalities.

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