The role of a Transfer Attorney in South Africa

Many sellers and buyers, particularly those embarking on their first property purchase, may not be entirely clear on what a transfer attorney is or what their role is in the property transfer process. Since a transfer attorney or conveyancer plays such a significant part in the process, we’ve outlined some of the key points that buyers and sellers should be aware of.

May 31, 2019

What is a transfer attorney? What is a conveyancer?

A transfer attorney is a legal practitioner who specialises in attending to the transfer of ownership of immovable property. This includes the transfer of private / residential property such as a house or sectional title unit or commercial property such as a shopping centre. It also includes situations where the buyer / seller is a natural person or an entity such as a company or trust.

A transfer attorney must also be a qualified conveyancer in order to attend to the transfer process which requires a specialised exam in the field of conveyancing.

As a way of ensuring the full property transfer process is managed effectively, it is a legal requirement for all deeds and documents requiring registration at the Deeds Office be drawn up and submitted by a qualified attorney, notary or conveyancer. This is regulated through the Deeds Registries Act 47 of 1937.

Who appoints a transfer attorney?

The common law dictates that the seller appoints the conveyancer. If the seller does not know of a conveyancer who they would like to work with, the relevant estate agent involved in the sale would typically be able to advise who the reputable conveyancers in the area are.

While the buyer doesn’t usually get a say in which transfer attorney is appointed to attend to the property transfer, the parties to the sale may agree otherwise.

The role of a transfer attorney

The transfer attorney or conveyancer plays a fundamental role in the full property transfer, overseeing all aspects of the process. The roles and responsibilities that lie with the conveyancer include:

  • Receiving the instruction to attend to the process of transferring the property from the seller to the purchaser
  • Dealing with the administrative aspects involved in the transaction, e.g. opening files, performing deeds searches
  • Drafting transfer documents and all documents that need to be signed by both seller and buyer
  • Paying the costs involved in the transfer process on behalf of the parties to the contract, e.g.transfer duty, rates / levies and collecting the full purchase price
  • Communicating with all role players, namely estate agent, purchaser and seller, mortgage originator, relevant banks, bond attorneys, local authority or body corporate, Deeds Office and SARS
  • Monitoring and reporting on the transfer process
  • Lodgement and registration of the title deeds
  • Reconciliation of all accounts

Working with an experienced and reputable transfer attorney is important considering the significant role they play and their impact on ensuring the process runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

For guidance on finding reputable and specialised conveyancing firms in your area, enquire with the estate agent managing the property. Alternatively, you can contact the law society of South Africa who can provide a list of attorneys for a specific area.

Should you have any conveyancing related queries, do not hesitate to contact the Snymans Inc team.

Written by Wessel de Kock

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