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The title deed: Everything homebuyers (and owners) need to know

The title deed is a legal document that determines who owns the property. Here's what the title deed contains, how it is registered, and how you can access it.

Title Deed

Article summary

  • Title deeds are important legal documents used as evidence of proof of ownership of a home or piece of land.
  • If there is a bond on the property then the title deeds will be kept by the lender or bank and only returned to the owner once the home loan has been fully paid.
  • Property burdens, or obligations to the property that need to be met, as well as details of joint ownership will be included in the transfer deeds.
  • A lawyer will be needed if the title deeds are changed, and the lenders and co-owners will have to agree to the changes, too.

The title deed is the key document in determining ownership of a property.

If you’re a property owner, or a buyer applying for a home loan, it helps to know what the title deed entails (the registering of the title deed is a step in the homebuying process).

The title deed: What you should know

We explain:

  1. What’s in the title deed and why title deeds are needed.
  2. The title deed registration process.
  3. Who keeps the title deed and how you can access it.
  4. What “property burdens” refers to.
  5. What happens when a couple purchase a property together.
  6. What happens if you want to change the title deed (for example, when a co-owner wants to sell their rights to the property).

What does the title deed include?

  • A description of the property, with its size, boundaries and exact position.
  • The name and identity number of the person or persons who legally own the property (it is possible for more than one owner to be listed on a title deed). 
  • The date when the property was last transferred
  • If bought from another person, the purchase price.
  • Any factors that could restrict the sale of the property, for example, a home loan.
  • Any restriction that applies on the purchase of the property. For example, the title deed should state if the property has a full freehold title. 
  • An official Deeds Registry Office seal to indicate that the deed has been recorded in the name of the owner and the date.

Why are title deeds needed?

They are an official record of who owns the property. 

If a buyer is interested in purchasing a property, the attorney checks the title deed to make sure the seller is entitled to sell the property.

Where is a title deed registered?

At the Deeds Office. 

The Deeds Registration branch is an entity of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.

When is the title deed registered?

The deed is registered following the bond registration (if a bond is required) and transfer of property process. These usually take about three months from the approval of the home loan.

How long does title deed registration take?

The Deeds Office usually takes 2 — 3 weeks to process the documents. 

However, this can fluctuate depending on the process. If things go smoothly it may be done in 7 — 8 working days, but if there is a bottleneck it can take as long as two months. 

Who keeps the title deed?

Where the title deed is kept depends mainly on whether there is a bond on the property or not.

If there is a bond, the deed will be kept by the finance lender or bank, until the bond is paid off.

If there is no bond, or the bond has been paid off in full, the deed is held by the property owner. 

How can I access the title deed?

In the case where the title deed is held by the lender or bank, photocopies of the deed can be requested at any time.

The process for accessing your title deed:

  • Go to any deeds office (deeds registries may not give out information acting on a letter or a telephone call).
  • Go to the information desk, where an official will help you complete a prescribed form and explain the procedure.
  • Request a data typist to search for the property, pay the required fee at the cashier’s office and take the receipt back to the official at the information desk. 
  • The receipt number will be allocated to your copy of the title.

You should have the following information ready:

  • The full names and/or identity number of the owner of the property, or at least their date of birth.
  • In the case of a community or an association of people, the name and registration number, if available, is necessary.
  • The correct erf number and township or farm name and number, not the street address.
  • In the case of a sectional title scheme, the section and the scheme name are required.

What does “property burdens” refer to?

Included in the title deed will be a list of “burdens”, or obligations to the property that need to be met. These burdens can cover a wide range but they will usually include:

  • Repairs and maintenance to the property.
  • Access and rights of way for the property.
  • Any restriction on using the property to run a business.
  • Information on restrictions on altering the property.
  • Whether or not the owner holds right to any roads that cross the property.

There are a number of burdens that will depend on the type of property or land in question. 

What happens in the case of “joint ownership”?

If the property is owned by more than one person then this will need to be included in the details. 

Joint ownership usually occurs when a couple purchase a home together.

The title deed sets out how much of the property is owned by each person.

Can I change the title deed?

The owner may want to change the title deed if they wish to sell their rights to the property. For example, a co-owner of a property no longer wants to be listed as an owner in the title deed.

A lawyer will be needed to change the deed, and a fee will be charged for this service.

The first step in the home buying process: Obtaining a home loan

The title deed is a step in the home buying process, but the first step is to apply for a home loan.

At ooba Home Loans, South Africa’s largest home loan comparison survice, we can help with this by submitting your home loan application to multiple banks. This allows you to compare the deals offered by the banks and choose the one best suited to your situation.

We also offer a range of tools that can make the home buying process easier.  Start with our Bond Calculator, then use our Bond Indicator to determine what you can afford. Finally, when you’re ready, you can apply for a home loan.

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