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I lost my original title deed, what now?

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Published Date: June 20, 2024

A title deed is issued to the registered owner of a property as proof of ownership. An owner wishing to exercise his rights, such as to sell or mortgage his property, will be required to lodge the original title deed with the relevant Deeds Office, through the appointed conveyancing attorney, in order for registration to be effected.

Will the registered owner of a property always be in possession of the original title deed?

No, not always. If the owner used the property as security to obtain a loan from a financial institution, like a bank, then the original title deed would in possession of the bank.

The bank, as lender, and in exchange for advancing money, will require a mortgage bond to be registered in its favour. The details of the mortgage bond will feature as an endorsement on the original title deed of the property as a clear indication that any subsequent transfer of the property would be subject to a consent from the bank confirming that the bond may be cancelled. The bank will only consent to the cancellation of the bond if the debt has been settled, or if a guarantee is in place for its settlement.

What can be done in the event that the original title deed has gone missing or is destroyed?

The registered owner of the property, with the assistance of the conveyancing attorney, will need to file an application with the Deeds Office in terms of the Deeds Registries Act (the “Act”) whereby the owner applies for the issuing of a certified copy of the title deed. This document is not “certified” in the ordinary sense, as it will not feature a certification stamp by a Commission of Oaths. Instead, it will feature an endorsement by the Registrar of Deeds confirming that, from the date of issue, the certified copy replaces the original lost or misplaced title deed.

Procedure to apply for a certified copy

Regulation 68(1) of the Act stipulates that the application must be brought by the registered owner of the property, or his or her duly authorised representative, and be accompanied by an affidavit setting out the following particulars:

  • A clear description of the lost or destroyed title deed;
  • A declaration that the title deed has not been pledged and is not held in the possession of anyone else as security for any indebtedness;
  • A statement confirming that the title deed has actually been lost and cannot be found despite a diligent and thorough search, nor can reference to it be traced so that it must be concluded that the title deed has either been lost or destroyed;
  • An explanation of the circumstances under which the title deed was lost or destroyed (if known); and
  • An undertaking to furnish the Registrar of Deeds with the original title deed should it resurface.

In addition to the application, a notice setting out the owner’s intention to apply for the issuing of a certified copy of the title deed will need to be published in a newspaper circulating in the area where the property is situated. The purpose of the notice is to give any interested party the opportunity to object to the issuing of the certified copy of the title deed. The Registrar of Deeds will only be able to issue a certified copy of the title deed after a copy of the title deed has laid open for inspection for a period of 2 weeks from date of publication of the notice, and provided that no objections were raised.

The application will undergo a series of examinations. Amongst others, the Deeds Office must satisfy itself that the title deed is not in possession of another interested party (other than the registered owner of the property). The most common scenario is the instance where a bond has been registered over the property as mentioned earlier. In such a case, the Deeds Office will require a consent from the financial institution (Regulation 68(2)), confirming that the original title deed is not in its possession and that it has no objection to the issuing of the certified copy.

The replacement of a lost or destroyed title deed is not impossible. It involves several moving parts which can cause a delay in the registration of the transaction if not attended to from the outset. Our team of experienced conveyancing attorneys are available to guide you through this process and can answer any questions that you may have.

Micaela Da Silva
Associate | Property Attorney

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