There is currently much talk about agencies making money from objections to WOZ assessments. Municipalities have complained for years about the strain these objections place on their organizations and financial resources. Secretary of State Van Rij is now pushing hard with measures to curb the “earning model” of no cure no pay companies (“NCNP companies”) that object to valuations on behalf of citizens. For example, the secretary of state wants to reduce the litigation fee for legal aid in objections and have the litigation fee paid not to the NCNP company but to the citizen.
Municipalities would do well not to wait for these measures. It would be better to follow the line taken by the cabinet in the fall of 2022: involve citizens in the valuation of their homes in advance and provide a low-threshold option for correction if citizens disagree with the WOZ assessment. This can be done by applying Article 4:8 of the Awb. The citizen then receives a draft valuation first. Should he disagree with the WOZ value, then the citizen (himself or through an agency) to submit a view. Even better is to alert citizens in advance to the possibility of a personal consultation at City Hall. This is no match for NCNP agencies. Indeed, they receive a procedural fee only for an objection or appeal, but not for an opinion against a draft decision. This cuts both ways: more citizen-friendly and less litigation costs!
This line of thinking is not new. Commissioned by the Scientific Research and Documentation Center (WODC), Breuer & Intraval conducted a study on the extent of the problem of NCNP agencies in WOZ proceedings. The research report, published in late 2020, shows that there is no large-scale “profiting” by NCNP companies in the WOZ. Instead, the report puts its finger on the problem of large-scale and model-based valuation, which relatively often vindicates objectors.
In September 2022, the government proposed three areas for improvement in response to the report:
- Involve citizens at the front end in valuing their homes;
- offer the possibility of informal contact in the event of a (possibly) incorrect WOZ value;
- Support municipalities in handling objections.
These improvement measures are still fresh. It may therefore be extraordinary that the secretary of state is now suddenly shifting the focus for action from the front to the back of the objection process: he wants to ensure that it becomes less financially attractive for NCNP agencies to file objections on behalf of citizens. The years of lobbying by the VNG have apparently become impossible for the cabinet to ignore.
The proposed measures should take effect during 2024.
This contribution was written by mr. Rudolf van Binsbergen.