Regulations published this week make allowance for buyers and tenants to move house, with a deadline of 7 June for all moves. Picture: 123RF/ALEKSANDR DAVYDOV
Regulations published this week make allowance for buyers and tenants to move house, with a deadline of 7 June for all moves. Picture: 123RF/ALEKSANDR DAVYDOV

The opening of the Deeds Office as the lockdown was eased to level 4 means homeowners who sold their homes before lockdown will be able to now receive the proceeds as those deals are processed, estate agents say.

You can’t visit a new home you want to buy yet, but in level 4 of the lockdown, some property sales may now start being processed.

Conveyancers are back at work to process transfers, but Bryan Biehler, MD and co-owner of Huizemark, says all properties awaiting registration of transfer in the Deeds Office are likely to be delayed for a minimum of a further six to eight weeks and this may entail having to get extensions on rates clearance certificates.

“Sellers may find they need to reapply for the clearance certificates, which could take a further two to three weeks and there would be a further rental occupation fee due by the sellers for this extended period,” he says.

However, the processing of property transfers “is particularly important for distressed sellers who, in the prevailing economic recession remain indebted and under economic pressure from creditors”, Andrew Golding, CEO of the Pam Golding Property group, says.

It also means estate agents who work largely on a commission-based income, can now get paid. Biehler says electronic or digital copies of the original hand-signed signatures will be accepted to get the sales process moving under lockdown.

Moving under certain conditions

Regulations now make allowance for buyers and tenants to move house, with a deadline of June 7 for all moves.

Pieter Townsend, CFO of removal group Eezi Move, confirmed to Money that the company had previously applied for a court interdict to allow the removals industry to operate under level 4.

“We are still going ahead with the court action on Tuesday May 12, because what the government discussed with us did not correlate what was published in the regulations. We are hoping for further clarification because the definitions of those who would be able to move home were initially a bit broader.

“For example, what happens to people who have signed purchase agreements but the transfer might only be processed after June 7? We have another client moving between provinces and his car is already at the new house. Now he has one vehicle available — will his family of four be allowed to travel in one car?”

Townsend says the company has 1,000 moves that had been cancelled when lockdown started and they are now trying to schedule these moves within the allocated period.

“Between last night [Thursday] and this morning, we received another 100 requests for moving quotes from people who are desperate to move as quickly as possible and the phones have not stopped all day,” he says.

So though you are now allowed to move home within the next month, you may battle to find a removal company that is not fully booked.

Roy Bregman, director at Bregman Moodley Attorneys, says the regulations allow you to move if:

  • You have a permit from your local police station commander. The permit must name the people in your household who are required to move.
  • As a tenant, you have a copy of your old lease agreement showing the expiry date and a new lease agreement showing date of commencement; or as a buyer, you have the transfer documents showing a change in property ownership.

Viewing goes virtual

While estate agents are not able to take you to view a new home physically, the practice of showing houses to prospective buyers is shifting from physical show days to digital show houses.

“Our stats, pulled three weeks into lockdown, show that 52 virtual showhouses took place, with 101 listings, 36 bond applications, 127 appointments scheduled with clients after lockdown and 45 sales,” Biehler says.  

Digital property group BidX1 SA has seen an uptake in buyer interest and activity, including more cash buyers, with more people viewing properties online and even purchasing unseen, says CEO MC du Toit.

Du Toit says overseas buyers are also bidding on SA properties for sale online and he believes online auctions will now be the most effective method of sale for any property.

Tenant evictions

Golding says orders to evict tenants may be granted by the courts under level 4 regulations and each case would be determined on its own merits. However, these orders would be suspended and not executed during lockdown level 4.

Andrew Schaefer, MD of national property management company Trafalgar, says when it comes to tenants who had been given notice to move because they were already defaulting on their rent, landlords may now be obliged to let them stay on at least until the end of the lockdown period.

“However, if they again don’t pay rent, it is important that the landlord or rental agent keeps reporting this to the credit bureau and continues to follow the correct legal procedures so that the eviction process can begin promptly after the state of disaster is lifted,” he says.

Schaefer says for tenants who were due to move but were unable to do so due to the lockdown, they will not be required to pay rent to the new landlord until they can take occupation, because these circumstances were beyond their control.

“The landlord or agent will not be able to let the property to someone else during lockdown, even if it is unoccupied,” he warns.

Schaefer advises that if quality tenants who have previously always paid rent lose their income due to the lockdown, the landlord could ask them to sign a waiver allowing their deposit to be used as rent instead of it having to be held in trust.

“It would be best if this agreement were drawn up by a professional rental agent and it should also contain a provision that the deposit is to be reinstated, perhaps in instalments, by a certain date, and that the landlord will be able to take legal action if the tenant reneges on this arrangement.” 

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