Answer to a question from a reader

I bought an RDP house without the title deed and now the seller wants the house back. What must I do?

The short answer

You need to get some legal advice

The whole question

I bought an RDP house without a title deed five years ago. I have been living in it since, but now the seller wants to take back the house and pay back the sale money. What can I do to enforce our initial agreement?

The long answer

There are a number of difficulties here:

Firstly, a beneficiary of an RDP house is not allowed to sell the house within the first eight years according to the Housing Amendment Act of 2015.  After eight years, if the owner wants to sell it, he or she has to offer to sell it to the government before it can be sold to anyone else. So the owner did not have the right to sell you the house that you have been living in since it was built.

But since you did pay for the house, you must have had some sort of agreement affidavit that you and the seller signed at a police station? Although it is only the title deeds that give you the legal ownership of a house, if the affidavit is dated and has the ID numbers of both the seller and yourself and was signed at the police station, it is a significant document that you can use to assert your ownership of the house. At the very least it shows that you had a sale agreement and that you paid an agreed amount for the house. The seller does not have the right to simply take back the house even if he or she is willing to pay back the money.

But you need to get some legal advice on how best to proceed. 

You could approach Legal Aid, which is a means-tested organisation, and ask them whether they can approach the court for a declaratory order that you are the legal owner of the house. If the court declares that you are the rightful owner, and there was a title deed issued, you can take steps to get it transferred to your name.

If you are not sure whether there has been a title deed issued since you bought the house, you can check at the Deeds Office. You would need to go in person to the Deeds Office with the erf number of the plot and the full name and/or ID number of the previous owner. They will help you fill out a form to check whether the deed was registered and you will have to pay a search fee of R14.00.

If they find the deed, they can advise you how to have it transferred into your name. This involves a lawyer called a conveyancing attorney who will do the transfer and may charge a fee of around R7,685 which includes VAT – an expensive business.

Then there is the problem of a clearance certificate: the Registrar of Deeds may only transfer the property if the municipality issues a certificate saying that all municipal service fees and rates have been fully paid for two years before you applied for the certificate. 

Perhaps you could approach the municipality of your area and ask if they can assist you.

This is the contact information for Legal Aid:

Reception (National Office): 011 877 2000

Legal Aid Advice Line (Toll-free): 0800 110 110

Legal Aid Ethics Hotline: 0800 153 728

Please-Call-Me number: 079 835 7179

Answered on June 5, 2020, 12:17 p.m.

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