The impact of COVID-19 continues to spread across various sectors of our economy. The property sector is no exception. Although COVID-19 has negatively impacted the property sector by causing delays in finalisation of property transactions, the current prime lending (which is at a record low in 50 years) has made buying property seem more attractive.
Unfortunately, there are still frustrations in completing property transactions due to delays caused by municipalities and deeds offices.
As part of the transfer process, municipalities should issue a rates clearance certificate confirming that all rates and taxes in respect of a property are up to date. Various municipalities still have a backlog in issuing rates clearance figures and the subsequent rates clearance certificates.
Representatives of associations within the legal fraternity have been engaging with municipalities and continue to do so in order to find common ground. The Property Committee of the Pretoria Attorneys Association, representatives from the Johannesburg Attorneys Association and Gauteng Attorneys Association held a meeting with representatives of the City of Tshwane on the 10th of July 2020 to discuss the backlog being experienced at the City of Tshwane. The City of Tshwane undertook to clear the backlog within a period of 4 weeks from date of the meeting. Although progress has been made, the backlog still exists.
Deeds offices across the country also continue to be impacted by COVID-19 as most of the deeds offices had to close their doors on a number of occasions due to recurring positive cases of COVID-19 to allow for the decontamination thereof.
However, on a positive note, the decontamination process only lasts a day or two where after operations resume. Deeds offices should be commended for being pro-active with their communication regarding the closure and re-opening of their offices.
On the 14th of August 2020 the Chief Registrar of Deeds also held a virtual meeting with the Registrars of all deed’s offices and other interested parties. The purpose of this meeting was to share and outline the measures that have been put in place by the deed’s offices to minimise the spread of COVID-19 within the respective offices. This transparency is much appreciated.
During this meeting, Registrars were requested to advise where backlogs are being experienced in the conveyancing process as well as steps taken to eradicate such backlogs. It was pleasing to note that there are some deeds offices that do not have a backlog. Bloemfontein deeds office does not have any backlog, while King William’s Town deeds office only has a backlog in the processing of matters post registration, which backlog they intend to deplete by the end of August 2020.
Although COVID-19 continues to negatively impact property transactions, there is a positive commitment from all the role players involved in the process to work together in order to ensure that registration of transactions takes place with minimal possible delays.