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NLA Explains Land Valuation Process

NLA Explains Land Valuation Process
Director/Commissioner, Land Valuations, National Land Agency (NLA), Eric Allen, explains the land valuation process at a recent JIS Think Tank
(Media Credit: R. Fraser)

KINGSTON (JIS) -- Effective April 1, a new property tax regime was implemented based on valuations carried out by the National Land Agency (NLA) in 2013. With the new valuations, properties have either increased in value, experienced a decline, or remain unchanged. Director/Commissioner, Land Valuations at NLA, Eric Allen, tells JIS News that a number of factors account for the value of a property. “The valuations are done to market; that is, what a willing buyer or willing seller would pay for the property on a given date. Location is the largest influencer of market value. The others are size, use of property and view,” he says. Zoning and type of land, potential for development, topography, soil classification, access to municipal and commercial services and neighbourhood characteristics are also taken into consideration. The first valuation was done in 1974, another in 1983, 1992 and again in 2002.

According to the Land Valuation Act (1957) “the Minister may by order, as respects any district, require a fresh valuation to be begun at intervals less than or more than five years: and no valuation shall be invalidated or affected by reason only of the failure of the Commissioner to comply with the provisions of this section as respects the periods specified”.

Mr. Allen says that property taxes are applied to property based on assessments undertaken by the Commissioner of Land Valuations.

“For every parcel of land, we have a property tax rate that is applied against the valuation in order to determine the amount of tax that is payable,” he explains.

It is important to note that land in Jamaica is valued on the unimproved value; that is, excluding any improvements on the property.

Jamaica has more than 835,000 parcels of land recorded on the valuation roll. Such a large amount makes it difficult for the NLA’s 11 chartered valuation surveyors and some 50 qualified valuers to visit each parcel.

Instead, each area is visited and reconnaissance done to note its general physical characteristics.

To assist the process, the NLA houses a database that records the name and owner of each property, the dimension and size of the property and other information that would be relevant to the valuation.

Mr. Allen notes that valuation is done to international standards, and the agency boasts approximately one third of the island’s surveyors, who are a part of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the world’s leading professional body for qualifications and standards in land, property, infrastructure and construction.

Mr. Allen also says that the NLA has a database that allows it to conduct an analysis of market transactions, as it “records every single transaction that a recorded property has [undertaken]”. In addition, the agency liaises with realtors and other persons in the sector.

Once that process has been completed, a valuation standard, called a mass appraisal approach, is applied.

For larger properties, such as resorts, which are more intricate and show much more differentiation, the NLA applies more detailed valuation methodologies.

Mr. Allen says that property owners who question the accuracy of the valuation have the opportunity for review and consultation through their parish councils.

Persons may also contact the NLA to query the valuation methodology and serve a Notice of Objection within 60 days after receiving the Notice of Valuation.

The landowner, however, must pay 75 per cent of the tax liability while the objection is being considered.

“The objections are based on [some] main criteria which are: if you think the valuation is too high or too low, if you think the lands should be included in one valuation and we have valued them separately, or if we have recorded someone on the property as the owner who you do not believe is the owner of that property,’ Mr. Allen outlines.

The NLA has extended its opening hours at two of its locations to facilitate queries on the new valuation.

The Land Valuation Division at 8 Ardenne Road in St. Andrew and its offices in Mandeville, Manchester at G1-G6 Golf View Shopping Centre at 5 ½ Caledonia Road, will open Mondays to Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Persons may also visit its website, www.nla.gov.jm , where all its forms can be downloaded and queries sent.