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The biggest Deeds Office in the country is suddenly closed, indefinitely

MAIN IMAGE: Julian Scher, director of Strauss Scher Attorneys; Nico du Plessis, chairperson of RNS Group

At the beginning of March, the industry was informed that the Pretoria Deeds Office would be relocating, and a timetable for the move was provided. It seems that was the last clear communication as chaos has since ensued.

Julian Scher, director of Strauss Scher Attorneys spoke to Motheo Khoaripe from Cape Talks’ The Money Show, describing the course of events.

Initially, conveyancers were informed that no business would take place between the 6th and 17th of April. While inconvenient, it was possible to plan around this pause however, on the 30th of March the move was put on hold. Four or five hours later, that decision was rescinded, leaving the industry in limbo.

The real shock came this Wednesday, the 5th of April when the registrar, Adv Audrey Gwangwa, sent out a disturbing email as Scher explains, “We received an email from the Registrar herself, where she simply said, ‘the Deeds Office will be closed indefinitely with effect from the sixth of April until further notice’. Never mind ‘we’re doing the move and will be open again on the 17th’ but we’re closed until further notice. Shocking!”

“Thousands of transactions and millions of Rands will be affected, and who knows for how long?”, says Jan le Roux, CE of Rebosa, “Property transactions will grind to a halt, banks can’t advance home loans, estate agents won’t get their commissions, cash flows will be severely hampered, and bills might not be paid. Making matters worse there is no time limit to this crisis and so it is impossible to put contingency plans in place.”

Scher also points out that the consequences of this decision have national impact in that Sars won’t be able to collect VAT for the “vast majority of those transactions which might be in that office. It’s the biggest Deeds Office in the country!”

Nico du Plessis, chairperson of RNS Group (Residential Network Systems) says, “My frustration is that it doesn’t look like the registrar thought this through at all. There was a plan in place, with a clear timeframe which we as an industry understand and were willing to work around.

It beggars belief that a government department can summarily, indefinitely close the biggest deeds office in the country, and this at a time when the economy is verging on recession. We represent thousands of estate agents – from mom-and-pop shops to the biggest franchises and all of them will be adversely affected, not to mention their clients – home buyers and sellers whose transactions cannot be finalised. This decision requires urgent intervention and improved oversight from the Minister of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform”.

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