Is the deeds registries system ready for a change?

The final step in the property transfer process is registration of the new title deeds in the Deeds Office. With the recent introduction of new legislation (the Electronic Deeds Registration System Act), we take a closer look at what this means for the registration process.

October 31, 2019

The current deeds registration process

Registration of title deeds takes place in one of the 11 Deeds Registry Offices across the country. The process entails the preparation of the various deeds by conveyancers who are then required to physically deliver these deeds to the relevant Deeds Office in whose jurisdiction the property being transferred lies. These documents are examined by the Deeds Office and any required corrections or alterations are made by the conveyancer. Once complete, the deeds are registered, microfilmed and kept on record by the Deeds Office for future referral.

Since this process of property registration is fundamentally paper driven, the deeds need to be physically transported between the Deeds Office and the conveyancing attorney’s firm. The documents also have to be delivered to the new owners once the registration process is complete, or to the bank with whom the mortgage is held in the case of bonded properties.

Expected changes to the deeds registration process

With the implementation of the Electronic Deeds Registration System Act, the current need for hard copies of deeds will be largely eliminated. The Act enables the Deeds Office and conveyancing attorneys to communicate and share the relevant documentation electronically.

The Act, signed into law on 2 October 2019, consists of seven sections and will facilitate the development of an electronic deeds registration system. It will also cause the subsequent revision or replacement of the Deeds Registries Act 47 of 1937, the Sectional Titles Act 95 of 1986 and several additional pieces of legislation or regulations relevant to deeds registries and registrations.

In addition, there has been mention by the South African legislature that a new act including all current legislation as well as informal ownership of land may be considered in the future.

The benefits of the new Electronic Deeds Registration System Act

The main advantage with the implementation of this new legislation is likely to be a considerable reduction in the turnaround times when it comes to the registration of deeds with the Deeds Office.

Naturally, this is a positive step and will benefit all parties involved in a property transfer. However, it is important to note that the full scope of amendments to the process and indeed, the potential benefits will only become clear once this system has been fully designed. It may still take some time for this new system to become a reality, and therefore the status quo with regard to this process will remain until further notice.

Written by Wessel de Kock

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