05 June 2024

Waiting for confirmation that your new home is actually yours – registered in your name – is a little like waiting for a new baby to arrive. There’s lots of happy anticipation tinged with worry. Usually, nothing goes wrong. But sometimes it does. The same can happen with a property transfer. In this article, we’ll look at the process that the Deeds Office follows to register a property, and the reasons why a transfer might get rejected.

The Deeds Office

The Deeds Office falls under the National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and both registers and records all changes of property ownership in South Africa. When the documents relating to a property transaction arrive here, this is the final stage in the transaction whether it’s a property sale or purchase.

What happens at the Deeds Office?

At the Deeds Office, the registration process is divided into four broad steps:


The first step is lodgement. This is when all the documents relating to the transaction arrive at the office. These include, among other things, the offer to purchase, the compliance certificates and if, either the buyer or seller has bonds, then all those documents, too, along with the relevant information about the people involved in the transaction. These documents may come from three different law firms and are gathered together into a single batch.

Once batched, the staff does a data search to verify the basic information to see if there are any interdicts against the people or the property. If nothing pops up, they get sent to distribution – the hub to and from which documents are sent at each stage in the process.


Secondly, the documents are carefully examined – three times, by three different sets of people – to make sure that there are no mistakes. If there are mistakes, the transfer will be rejected, and it will not move to the preparation stage. Later, we give you examples of the types of mistakes that stop registration.


In the third step, once the application has passed the examination stage, the Deeds Office lets all the attorneys involved in the transaction know that the transfer is good to go. The attorneys now have five days to do the final checks relating to finances and any other conditions that may be attached to the transaction. After confirming that everything is in order, and before the five-day deadline, all the attorneys put forward the transfer: they must give the go-ahead for all the elements of the transaction to happen at the same time.


In the fourth and last step, the Registrar of Deeds signs off the transaction, i.e. the executed, re-executed and the property is then registered in the new owner’s name.

Reasons why the deeds office could reject a transfer

We have divided the reasons why a transfer could be rejected into three broad categories:

Mistakes (errors)

The transfer will be rejected if there are any mistakes in the names, addresses, numbers, etc. in the contracts. This means that when you fill in and/or sign any and all the documents to do with your property transfer, make sure that you double check:

  • Names and other details of the people involved
  • The description of the property including the address, ERF number, etc. must be correct and reflect what is in the title deed
  • All the sums: make sure that the numbers add up when it comes to deposits, bond amounts, etc. They must be correct and reflect what is in the offer to purchase (OTP) and bond documents
  • The details in any affidavits or powers of attorney that you sign, and through which you give the transferring attorney the authority to act on your behalf

Remember: if you cross out and correct a mistake on any of the documents, make sure that you, the other people involved, and the witnesses, initial each correction.

Missing documents and/or information

Both buyers and sellers will need to submit the following:

  • documents, for example, marriage and compliance certificates and if the seller owns the property outright, the title deed
  • receipts for municipal rates and property transfer taxes which must also include the correct information about the property
  • signatures and/or initials which need to be on all pages of the relevant documents

Compliance issues

In addition to the certificates of compliance we’ve already mentioned, the attorneys must make sure that they follow the processes and formats as required by the law and the deeds office. This includes the correct document covers and ensuring that clauses that don’t apply, are deleted and initialled by the signatories as well as witnesses.

What if the transfer is rejected?

If the transfer is rejected, firstly, and like with most things, don’t panic. Remember that the transfer of a property involves people at every step of the way. We’re all human, so mistakes do happen, so take a deep breath, find out what’s gone wrong and simply address the issues to make sure that everything is in place so that you can start the process again.

A last word

Buying a property is not just a serious investment, but also a complicated legal process. That’s why it’s really important to choose an experienced and reputable transfer attorney to handle your property transaction and to partner with a real estate professional who you can speak to for additional support and advice.

To find a real estate professional you can rely on for advice, contact your nearest RE/MAX office.

Have more unanswered questions? Here are some related questions – and answers – that might help…

Can you transfer property without a title deed?

No, you can’t transfer a property if you don’t have the title deed. However, all is not lost: you (or your transfer attorney) can request a duplicate from your local Deeds Office.

How many deeds offices are there in South Africa, and where are they?

There are 11 Deeds Offices in South Africa: One in each province and two in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape: in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Polokwane, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Vryburg, Nelspruit, King William’s Town, and Umtata.

How long does property transfer take?

Assuming that everything is in order and there are no reasons for the closure of the Deeds Office as happened during the COVID lockdown, a property transfer takes between 7 and 14 days to complete the process from lodgement to registration.

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