The Deeds Office purpose and process
All title deeds – documents that confirm ownership of immovable property that is land – are registered, processed and stored by the South African Deeds Office. This information is vital as part of property transfers and ensuring accurate data is contained in the Deeds Registry is important for all parties concerned.
Accessing Deeds Office information
The South African Deeds Office is made up of 11 regional offices, and the title deeds for each property are contained within the relevant regional Deeds Office. Should an owner be unsure about which Deeds Office contains the title deed for their property, it is possible to request this information from a transferring attorney who will be able to perform a deeds search on behalf of the owner using his or her ID number.
It is also worth noting that as the Deeds Office is a public office, all information contained within its registries is public information and can be accessed by the general public. There are a number of systems that can assist individuals in accessing Deeds Office information, however, it is also always possible to request the assistance of a transferring attorney for these purposes.
Updating Deeds Office records
The full process for records to be updated and processed as part of a property transfer is prescribed in the Deeds Registries Act, 47 of 1937. It is a rather complex and specialised process and as such, requires the services of an experienced transferring attorney. In essence, the deeds (including all relevant transfer documentation) are lodged at the Deeds Office and are then examined by the Deeds Registrar to determine whether all relevant information is correctly captured and accurate. Once this examination is complete, the deeds are registered and this information will form part of the Deeds Office Registry. When reading a report on the status of a property transfer, the following stages may be referred to:
- Lodgement: documents are submitted to the lodgement counter by the transfer attorney
- Data capture and sorting: information is captured on the Deeds Office system and documents are printed and sorted, ready for examination
- Examination: documents are scrutinised to ensure all data is accurate. There are multiple stages of examination as this process is carried out by a junior examiner and then a senior examiner, as well as a monitor should there be any queries or disputes regarding the information received.
- Preparation: deeds are received back by the transfer attorney who is able to attend to any notes attached before returning for registration
- Registration: title deeds are registered in the Deeds Office
In some situations, amendments or corrections need to be made to existing Deeds Office information. For this to be processed, the same steps need to be followed after which the new information will reflect against the title deed of a property.
Deeds Office delays
There are many possible situations that can result in frustrating delays in the registration of a title deed. These include incorrect documentation, missed signature or initials, mislaid document and expired certificates. Although in some cases, delays are unavoidable, the best way to mitigate the risk of delay is to work with reputable and experienced transferring attorneys who will be able to advise you on the process and steps required, as well as all documentation needed to process the transfer as smoothly as possible.