Deeds office goes Uber
Author: Hopewell Sathekge – Senior Associate
The Electronic Deeds Registration Systems Act has recently been signed into law (3 October 2019) and is aimed at putting an electronic deeds registration system (e-DRS) in place. This system, which has been in discussion as far back as the 1990s, when fully implemented, will be like the one in the UK.
There is currently an electronic land register in the form of scanned electronic records of deeds. Original deeds are issued to owners and they serve as proof of ownership.
The e-DRS will change the current land registration process, which the process is as follows:
(a) Printing of a draft deed in a regulated format – legible, printed single sided A4 paper and signed in black by a Conveyancer;
(b) Hard copy of the signed deed is submitted to the relevant Deeds Office for examination;
(c) Signing of the deed by another Conveyancer in the Deeds Office in the presence of a Registrar of Deeds – s13(1) of the Deeds Registries Act provides that physical deeds signed by a Registrar shall be deemed to be registered once the Registrar has signed; and
(d) The original deed is then scanned into the electronic land register and returned to the owner serving as proof of ownership.
It is interesting that the Pretoria Deeds Office lost scanned copies of deeds which were scanned between August 25 and December 6 in 2007.
The e-DRS will replace the current system of manually preparing, lodging and registering deeds with two major changes. The first is that a deed will be regarded as a document in the form of data message, i.e. electronic representation of information, generated and stored electronically in the e-DRS.
The other change is that a signature, for purposes of registration in the Deeds Office, will be regarded an electronic signature recognised in terms of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act.
Deeds generated and registered electronically will be for all purposes deemed the only original and valid record of ownership. In terms of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, information is in its original form when the integrity of that information, from when it is first generated to its final form, is capable of being displayed or produced to any person.
The Act was signed into law by the president but will only come into operation on a proclamation date to be determined. In the meantime, the current system of preparing; lodging; and registering of deeds will continue until the e-DRS is in place. Registrations that took place prior to coming into effect of the Act will not be affected.
The question then is as follows – is the department of Rural Development and Land Reform equipped to introduce a digital registration process yet? The department’s current equipment is said to be non-digital. It can also be said that most department’s staff is not yet equipped to handle digital systems. That being so, new equipment that process digital systems will need to be purchased, and the old staff will need to be trained and/or new staff will need to be hired to handle the new system.
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