Urgent court bid to get Cape Town Deeds Office to reopen after Covid-19 scare
Cape Town – The Western Cape High Court is due to hear an urgent application today by the Cape Town Attorneys Association (CTAA) for the reopening of the Cape Town Deeds Office.
The Deeds Office is responsible for the registration, management and maintenance of the property registry in the country.
Its repeated closures due to Covid-19-related issues and the fact that it has been operating on a limited capacity is having a negative impact on the CTAA’s members – many of whom are conveyancers with no certainty when transfers will register – as well as people looking to buy or sell property.
It's is believed that there are about 10 000 deeds in the system, with a turnaround time of between three to four weeks from the date of lodgement until registration at the Cape Town Deeds Office. In comparison, the deeds offices in Johannesburg and Pretoria have had a turnaround time of seven working days for lodgments during the lockdown.
The CTAA is of the opinion the Cape Town Deeds Office is not following the correct Covid-19 protocols when dealing with staff members exposed to the virus, attorney Stefan le Roux, a partner at the law firm Glyn Marais and a member of the CTAA, told Cape Talk.
The Deeds Office was closed when the lockdown started in late March. It reopened on May 12 and closed shortly after when a member of staff was exposed to Covid-19. When it reopened, Le Roux said it operated at a limited capacity.
Over the past weekend, Le Roux said another member of staff was indirectly exposed to Covid-19 and the Deeds Office was closed once again.
Le Roux said the Deeds Office is meant to have a risk assessment plan in place outlining measures to ensure the safety of workers.
Ebersohns Attorneys said in a statement yesterday: "By now you will all have heard that the Cape Town Deeds Office has closed yet again, because one of their staff have allegedly come into contact with someone who is allegedly Covid-19 positive.
"As such and for now, our registrations are yet again on hold and we can again not predict with any certainty when our transfers will register.
"Yesterday, the Cape Town Attorneys Association sent a letter to the Deeds Office demanding that it reopen, because we are all of the view that there are no proper grounds for a complete closure and not adhereing to departmental directives.
"In their letter, the CTAA threatened to bring an urgent High Court application to address the matter if no positive response was received. The Deeds Office has not responded.
"Accordingly, the CTAA, as well as the Tygerberg Attorneys Association and the Institute for Estate Agents, are busy preparing an urgent application to court, which is scheduled to be heard on Friday, 12 June 2020.
"The chances are however that the matter will be postponed to a date next week."IOL