Subdivision of property in South Africa

There are several potential benefits associated with property subdivisions, but before moving ahead with plans to subdivide a property, owners need to take into account a number of factors.

March 24, 2017

The subdivision of land, where one property is divided into two or more portions, is often something that owners consider in order to benefit financially from selling off these divided portions, or perhaps building additional houses on each portion and selling these off at a profit. There are also many other reasons to subdivide a property that may come into play, such as dividing a property and selling a portion to a developer for town planning purposes.

Regardless of the reason, the appropriate steps need to be followed and relevant legislation complied with in order to effect a property subdivision.

Legislative considerations

Depending on the type of land to be divided, certain legislation may have an impact on the process. For example, the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act, 70 of 1970 regulates the subdivision of farmland and requires the consent of the Minister of Agriculture before the requested subdivision can take place.

The location of the land is also an important consideration as Provinces and Local Authorities have their own legislation and bylaws that govern subdivisions and regulate the details of such a transaction. These include the minimum size of a subdivided portion, the number of portions, availability of services, access to roads and property zoning.

The relevant Local Authority should be contacted for confirmation on these, as ascertaining the specific legislation and bylaws that apply in a particular situation is crucial before beginning the process of a property subdivision.

How property subdivision works

As well as the legislative considerations, the costs associated with the property subdivision process, particularly relating to the various professionals required in order to complete and register the subdivision, must be taken into account to make sure the process will provide long-term benefits.

Once an owner has made the decision to proceed with the subdivision of a property, the process will begin with enlisting the services of a land surveyor who will draw up a subdivisional diagram and have this registered with the Office of the Surveyor General.

From there, a town planner will handle the process on behalf of the owner / applicant and will assess all the requirements as set out by the Local Authority. The town planner will determine and provide recommendations regarding any restrictions or limitations on the subdivision and attend to advertisements and notification of all relevant parties (e.g. affected neighbours) to allow for legitimate objections to be lodged. Any objections by interested parties, e.g. neighbours, will have to be dealt with in the appropriate tribunals/hearings and this may delay the process and increase costs significantly.

Depending on the complexity of the subdivision, the services of an engineering firm may also be required to perform a full site inspection and provide a services report.

With all legislation and bylaws complied with, a conveyancer will be instructed, who will draft the necessary documentation for registration of the subdivision in the Deeds Office.

While the timeframe for the final registration process remains the same as for all other property transfers, the full subdivision process can be a very lengthy one, and as such should be commenced well ahead of any desired deadline for the final registration and sale of subdivided land portions.

Written by Wessel de Kock

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