Shouldn’t the Deeds Office be an essential service?

Written on 04/25/2020
Editor

In this mailbox David Williams argues that he is "stuck at a considerable cost in money and anxiety", because of the closure of the Deeds Office.

Uncertainty, frustration, anxiety, money fears are but a few words describing the affect the nationwide lockdown is having on the wellbeing of all South Africans. But the government was very clear in its reasoning for a nationwide lockdown – to curb the spread of Covid-19 to save lives. In this mailbox financial journalist David Williams argues that he is “stuck at a considerable cost in money and anxiety”, because of the closure of the Deeds Office, a service he sees as “priority in unlocking the activity in the entire property sector”. But is it that simple? Not according to Conveyancers Andrew Murray and Robert Krautkrämer of Miltons Matsemela Inc. The pair argues that the Deeds Office doesn’t function in isolation. And while from a purely financial survival point of view they would welcome the re-opening of the property sector, they say the hard and cold truth is a re-opening will simply undo all that has been achieved through lockdown. – Editor

By David Williams
I have seen nothing in the media about the paralysing disruption to the residential and commercial property sectors caused  by the lockdown closure of the Deeds Office.

One notices something if it affects you. I have sold my house and at the last minute, just before lodging and registration (i.e. sale completed, all papers approved), the lockdown was imposed. There must be thousands of people like me, including those moving to different jobs and cities – whose whole lives have been put on hold indefinitely. You know what it’s like to move – bad enough at the best of times.

Also read: Level 4 lockdown: What can and can’t be done

So I am stuck, frozen, at a considerable cost in money and anxiety. Not just residential – a friend of mine is a property owner/developer and he has a major sale of a building that is on hold – again at huge cost in money, uncertainty etc. and maybe the survival of his business. The problem? The Deeds Office.
Everything in a property transaction can be done in one-on-one actions or back offices, easy to practise distancing, attorneys and clients being sensible, and the same should apply to the Deeds Office – so why the freeze? Surely this is a priority in unlocking the activity in an entire sector?
Would be good to hear the justification for keeping the Deeds Office closed.