Answer to a question from a reader

My sister and I inherited our late mother's RDP. Can I transfer the house to only my name?

The short answer

You and your sister have an equal right to the house, so you would have to come to some agreement.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My sister and I used to live together in our late mother's RDP house. When she moved out with her husband, she destroyed everything in the house but she wants to come back now that I've fixed it all. I have a protection order against her because she abused me and beat me when she got drunk. She blames me because her husband assaulted me many years ago. The protection order is five years old so I think it has expired. I love her and her children but I cannot live with them because of the unhappiness she causes me. Can I change the RDP house to my name so that if I one day have children they don't suffer as I did?

The long answer

This is clearly a very unhappy situation for you to be in. But even though your sister is abusive to you, it doesn’t change the fact that you both have a right to the house, because it was your mother’s house and you as her children inherited it equally after she died. That means you both own the house.

So, the only way you could get it put into your name would be if your sister agreed to it, or if you bought her share of the house from her. In either case, getting a house into your name involves a lawyer, called a conveyancer, who must do all the paperwork and register the house under a new name at the Deeds Office. In that way the title deeds are transferred to your name: you get a copy and a copy stays in the Deeds Office. It takes a long time and it is an expensive process; it could cost as much as R7,000.

If you had a partner and/or children, you could also apply for an RDP house yourself. To qualify for an RDP house, you need to be:

  • A South African citizen

  • Over 21 and mentally competent to sign a contract

  • Married or living with a partner, or single and have dependants (single military veterans or aged people without dependents also qualify)

  • Earn less than R3,500 per month per household (so if two people in your family earn and these earnings amount to more than R3,500 per month you will not qualify)

  • A first-time government subsidy recipient

  • A first-time homeowner

But if it is not possible for you to apply for an RDP house or to buy your sister’s share of your late mother’s house, perhaps you could get some help and advice about how you can improve the situation with your sister and make your life less unhappy. 

Perhaps you could first find out if the protection order is still valid, and what you must do to extend it, if it is not, as your sister is still abusing you. 

You could ask a human rights paralegal organisation like the Black Sash to advise you about this. You can contact them on the Black Sash National Toll-Free Help Line at: 072 66 33 739, or email [email protected]. You can also send a text or a please-call-me and a paralegal will contact you.

There is also a new 24-hour toll-free shelter helpline, for victims of domestic violence, based at the Saartjie Baartman Centre in Athlone in Cape Town. Although domestic violence is mostly gender-based, you are still the victim of domestic violence if your sister beats you when she is drunk. 

You can speak to social workers and ask them for advice if you call this toll-free helpline number: 0800 001 005.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on April 29, 2021, 11:38 a.m.

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