Answer to a question from a reader

How do you change the title deed of a property bought from the council?

The short answer

Like with other properties, the title deed is transferred by a conveyancing attorney.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My mother and her three sisters lived with their grandmother in a house owned by the council. Eventually, they gained ownership of it after paying the municipality. The one sister who was living on the property had taken the other sisters' names off the deed and added her own three children's. My mother and the other two sisters had no idea. Since then, my cousin has taken ownership of the house. Please advise me on what the real process of changing the title deed of a council property is.

The long answer

A tenant wishing to buy the property from the council would have to be the legal tenant. There would have to be an agreement of sale signed by the legal tenant and the council before it would be possible for the council to sell the property. Without a valid agreement of sale, there can be no transfer of property. It would be important to find out who signed the agreement of sale as the legal tenant, and in whose name/s the property was registered when it was bought. Was it the sister or the grandmother?
The person whose name appears on the title deed is the legal owner of the property. If it was the grandmother, she could choose to leave it to her children in her will. If she died without a will, her children would inherit the property under the Intestate Succession Act, and all her children would have an equal share.
Similarly, if the title deed was in the late sister’s name, she could leave it to her children in her will, and if she died without a will, her children would be first in line to inherit.
If the title deed was in her name and she had wanted to change or add names to the title deeds, she would have had to do this through a conveyancing attorney, who would do all the legal work, and apply to the Deeds Office for registration of a new title deed. It would not have been possible for her to simply instruct the council to change names. You can also call the City’s contact centre at all hours on 0860 103 089 and ask how names could have been changed on a council house.
If you do not have the title deeds, you could ask the municipality to tell you in whose name the house was registered. The municipality should have copies of all the documents. 
If necessary, you could also ask the Deeds Office to do a search for the title deeds. You would have to give them the full names of the grandmother and the sister, their ID numbers if possible, and the erf number of the plot, not the street number.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on May 14, 2021, 1:24 p.m.

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