On 29 April 2020, new Regulations were gazetted which repealed the previous ones that dealt with the COVID-19 Lockdown. The new Regulations cater for different alert levels, ranging from a level 5, being the most restrictive and severe, to level 1. The Regulations enable provinces, metros and districts to fall under different Alert Levels, depending on their risk. As from today, 1 May 2020, the permissions and prohibitions of Alert Level 4 applies to the whole of South Africa. We had a look at the regulations to see how they impact the Property Sector.
For convenience sake, we looked at a few questions we received. This newsletter, therefore, answers the questions based on our interpretation of the Regulations.
- Will the Deeds Office be allowed to open?
In terms of the Regulations, the Deeds Office will be allowed to open. The Regulations do, however, oblige every business and entity, which includes the Deeds Office, to develop a plan prior to reopening. The plan must, amongst others, govern the phased return of employees, health protocols as well as rules regarding social distancing and screening facilities. We, therefore, find it doubtful that any deeds office will already be open to the public by Monday 4 May 2020. It will probably take a couple of days if not weeks before there will be any meaningful productivity in the Office.
- Can you obtain clearance figures and clearance certificates?
According to the Regulations, only essential municipal services will be allowed. Certain municipalities have indicated that they will issue both clearance figures and certificates. We made enquiries with the Rustenburg Local Municipality who indicated that they will be issuing clearance figures and certificates. The staff will, however, be rotated. In other words, the Clearance-department might not function every day, which will delay the issuing of figures and certificates.
- Can you obtain figures and certificates from homeowners’ associations and body corporates?
In terms of the Regulations, all professional services may operate to support other Alert Level 4 services. We are, therefore, of the opinion that homeowners’ associations and body corporates will be allowed to issue figures and certificates because it supports the services of the Deeds Office, which is an Alert Level 4 service.
- Will you be able to move in or out of your property if your transfer registers?
Unfortunately, every person is still confined to his or her place of residence. The only exceptions are
- performing or obtaining an essential or permitted service;
- going to work;
- buying permitted goods;
- moving children, as allowed in the Regulations; and
- attending to a security or medical emergency;
- walking, running or cycling between 06:00 am and 09:00 am, within a five km radius of your place of residence.
The same principle will apply in the event of a lapsed or new lease agreement. Estate agents will, in any event, not be able to conduct the entry and exit inspections, as required in terms of the Rental Housing Act.
- Can I move under the exception of Regulation 16(5) ?
No. It only allows you to return to your place of residence if you were not at your place of residence before the Lockdown, and the movement restrictions prevented you from returning to your place of residence.
- Can you be evicted, or evict someone else?
In terms of the Regulations, a competent court is allowed to grant an eviction order in terms of ESTA or PIE legislation. The order will, however, be stayed and suspended until the last day of Alert Level 4, unless the court decides that it is not just and equitable to stay and suspend the order until the last day of Alert Level 4. Hopefully, this means that moving will also be permitted at the end of Alert Level 4, if evictions will be permitted.
- Can COC’s for electrical installations be issued?
According to the Regulations, only emergency repair work may be conducted by, for example, plumbers and electricians. Based on this, it is our opinion that electricians are not allowed simply to issue COC’s. We are, however, of the opinion, that electricians are not prohibited from issuing a COC after completing emergency repair work.
- Can you apply for, and obtain a transfer duty receipt from SARS?
SARS has been allowed, for the whole period of the Lockdown, to provide essential services. This includes issuing transfer duty receipts.
- Can the building work on your property continue?
The Regulations only allow public construction works. Residential and commercial construction is not permitted under Alert Level 4.
Janus Olivier and Volker Krüger