Picture taken at 9:25am on Thursday shortly after the doors opened at the Cape Town deeds office. Picture: Mwangi Githahu/Cape Argus
Picture taken at 9:25am on Thursday shortly after the doors opened at the Cape Town deeds office. Picture: Mwangi Githahu/Cape Argus

Covid-19 related delays at deeds office hurt property industry

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Mar 5, 2021

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Cape Town - Estate agents and conveyancers have said the frequent closure of the Cape Town deeds office in Plein Street due to Covid-19 scares is having a negative impact on the real estate industry.

The office was closed on Wednesday after a staff member tested positive with Covid-19 and while clients had expected to have access by 8am yesterday, by 9am they were still waiting in long queues outside.

Rawson property group Cape Town regional sales manager Craig Mott said: “We have many buyers and sellers who were in the process of transferring property but have now been left stranded and these closures have the ability to financially ruin many people.

“Conveyancers face long queues at the deeds office and are naturally taking longer to finalise a transaction than they would have pre- Covid-19. Unfortunately these delays do have a ripple effect that is felt throughout the property sales cycle,” said Mott.

Mott said the delays made it difficult to plan ahead with a property transaction as it created complications around occupation dates and made it tough to align the needs of buyers, sellers and tenants.

Western Cape Property Development Forum (WCPDF) chairperson Deon van Zyl said: “The issue of the deeds office has been ongoing throughout the Covid-19 crisis.”

He said: “It appears that various deeds offices throughout the country have dealt with service delivery in different ways. Certain offices have closed while others have proactively tried to continue with service delivery. This illustrates that management is a critical factor in service delivery.”

Exactly a month ago the deeds office had the same issue with an employee reported testing positive for Covid-19.

According to deputy registrar of deeds Joseph Dreyer, in that incident the office was closed in the morning of February 1, decontaminated that same afternoon with the risk assessment walk through carried out at 7am on February 2 with the office resuming normal activities at 8am.

Yesterday, however, people in the queues were told that the risk assessors were late and thus the hold up.

According to one of the conveyancers who requested anonymity, “The procedure is to decontaminate certain workspaces and areas so as to comply with their standard operating procedures which demand the closure of the office.”

In August last year Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza said the office would urgently prioritise the upgrading of its IT system, after numerous complaints from stakeholders regarding backlogs and the constant closure of the office due to Covid-19 scares.

“All examiners will be allowed to do examination of documents at home, to fast-track the examination of documents. Registrars have the authority to manage this and should do so, taking all appropriate steps to ensure the safety of the documents as well as steps to avoid fraudulent transactions,” said Didiza.

Cape Argus

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