Since the implementation of the nationwide lock-down to slow the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa, all Deeds Offices have been closed in accordance with Government Lockdown Regulations. On the 11th of May 2020 the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development announced the nationwide opening of Deeds Offices scheduled for the 13th of May 2020. The announcement outlined that all services would be available at the Deeds Office, and lodgements accepted.
In order to adhere to social distancing, only Conveyancers will be allowed to enter the Deeds Office.
PHASING-IN AT THE PRETORIA DEEDS OFFICE
On the 18th of May 2020, the Pretoria Deeds office declared that a phased-in approach will be followed, and as such, the following measures are applicable until further notice:
- Lodgements of deeds and documents will only be allowed until 11h00 daily; provided that the deeds are already linked and bound by a rubber band;
- Only 4 persons will be permitted to make use of an elevator at a time;
- Pigeonholes will be allocated to Conveyancers for the pre-linking of deeds;
- Consultations will take place either telephonically or via email, bar exceptional circumstances where a physical consultation will be permitted;
- The corrective maintenance of deeds is not allowed;
- Except in exceptional circumstances, there will be no putting forward of deeds.
- The information section will remain closed until further notice;
- Conveyancers will be delivered deeds between the hours of 10h30 and 12h00 daily;
- One Conveyancer per firm will be permitted to execute documents between the hours of 09h00 and 12h00 in designated areas at the Deeds Office;
- Expedited delivery is not allowed; and
- Conveyances wishing to enter the Deeds Office will have to wear a face mask, subject themselves to temperature-testing, sanitise their hands, and provide identification to security in the form of a driver’s license or identity document. 
POTENTIAL DELAYS IN THE REGISTRATION PROCESS
In terms of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000 it is required that before the lodging of transfer documents can take place at the Deeds Office, a rates clearance certificate (RCC) needs to be obtained from the City Council. This certificate verifies that all amounts which were due and payable in respect of the property for two years preceding the application have been paid in full.
The Act specifies that the certificate is only valid for a 60 day period, and although it has become a common practice for municipalities to issue rates clearance certificates for longer than the prescribed 60 day period, the Registrar of Deeds is prohibited from accepting the certificate once the 60 day period has expired. The lockdown resulted in Deeds Offices being closed for more than 45 days and the 60 day period for many rates clearance certificates would likely have expired during that time.
As it currently stands, no indulgence for the lockdown period is being granted by the Deeds Office. The impact of this is that new rates clearance certificates will need to be obtained before one can approach the Deeds Office for the transfer of property to be registered. Continued delays in the registration process will likely be experienced due to the backlog caused by the lock-down period.
For any queries regarding the transfer of property and other conveyancing matters, please do not hesitate to contact Barnard Incorporated for assistance.
 Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on opening of deeds offices across the country found at https://www.gov.za/speeches/agriculture-land-reform-and-rural-development-opening-deeds-offices-across-country-11-may (Accessed 14 May 2020).
 Registrar’s Circular No. 6 of 2020 found at https://www.ppv.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Registrars-Circular-06-of-2020.pdf (Accessed 18 May 2020) para 3.1 to 3.13.
 Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 0f 2000 (hereafter “the Act”) section 118(1).
 The Act (n3 above) section 118(1A).
 Chief Registrar’s Circular No. 2 of 2018 at para 3.