I’ve Lost My Title Deed – What Do I Do Now?

After months on the market, you have finally sold your house, your purchaser’s bond has been granted and you are ready to start the transfer. Then the Conveyancer asks you for the Title Deed for the property and your heart sinks …. you have no idea where it is.

For the moment, this is not a problem.

Regulation 68(1) of the Deeds Office Regulations provides for a simple mechanism whereby an owner can apply to the Registrar of Deeds for the issue of a certified copy of a Title Deed which will replace the lost original.

The current procedure requires the owner to apply to the Registrar of Deeds for the issue of a certified copy of his lost Title Deed. The application takes the form of an affidavit signed in front of a Commissioner of Oaths. The affidavit must contain the following information:

  • Details of the deed that is lost;
  • State that it has not been pledged;
  • State that it is not being detained by anyone as security for a debt or otherwise;
  • State that it has actually been lost or destroyed;
  • State that it cannot be found through a diligent search has been made; and
  • If known, state the circumstances under which it was lost.
  • If this is not the first time that the Title Deed has been lost and a copy has been issued previously, this must be disclosed and it must state that the previous copy has also been lost.

If the property is bonded, the bondholder must sign a consent confirming that it is not in possession of the original Title Deed and that it has no objection to a copy being issued.

The application is lodged at the Deeds Office and a copy printed from the microfilmed/scanned records. An endorsement is placed on the copy stating “Certified a true copy of the registry duplicate in terms of Regulation 68 of Act 47 of 1937 and is issued to take the place of the original”. The issue of the copy is also noted against the Deeds Office data records.

You now have a certified copy that will replace the original lost Title Deed.

But this simple procedure is set to change. On 25 January 2019, the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform published amendments to the Deeds Office Regulations in the Government Gazette which were to have taken effect on 25 February 2019. These amendments inter alia amended the procedure to be followed when bringing an application for the issue of a certified copy under Regulation 68(1).

The amendments made the following changes:

  • The application will still be in the form of an affidavit but that affidavit must be attested by a Notary Public and no longer a Commissioner of Oaths.
  • Before lodging the application at the Deeds Office, the owner must publish a Notice of Intention to apply for a certified copy in the Government Gazette.
  • Copies of the lost Title Deed shall be open for inspection by any interested party at the Deeds Office for a period of 2 weeks after the Notice is published, during which time such interested party may lodge an objection to the application.

This makes the procedure more complicated and more expensive. Notaries are entitled to charge to attest documents and the Government Gazette charges to publish notices.

So why the change? The simple answer – to combat fraud. Due to an increase in fraudulent transactions, the need has arisen for stricter procedures to be put in place for the issuing of copies of Title Deeds. Requiring a Notary Public to attest to the application, means that there will be stricter enforcement of verification of the identity of the person signing the application. Requiring publication of the Notice of Intention to apply for a certified copy, means that interested parties can object if they believe the application is not genuine.

This is good news for ordinary people as it makes it more difficult for a fraudster to “hijack” your property, however, for those honest persons who have genuinely lost their Title Deeds, it does mean more costs and hurdles to jump over.

Despite the good intentions behind the amendments, they are not without problems regarding practical implementation and accordingly on 20 February 2019, the Chief Registrar of Deeds suspended their implementation until further notice.

For the time being, the old procedure remains unchanged, but changes are coming. These may not be in the same format as those initially set out in the amended Regulations but certainly, in the future, it will not be so easy to obtain a certified copy of your lost Title Deed. So, look after your original Title Deed, it is an important document that will not be so easy to replace in the future.

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