On the 11th of May 2020, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (“the Department”) released a media statement announcing the nationwide opening of deeds offices on the 13th of May 2020. The media statements advised that all services will be available at the deeds office and that all lodgments would be accepted. The statement also advised that only conveyancers, and not members of the public, will be allowed to enter the deeds offices.

The opening of the deeds offices were subject to the national lockdown regulations and, on the 18th of May 2020 the Offices of the Registrar of Deeds: Pretoria, released a circular which outlined the phased approach which they intended to follow. Some of the measures outlined in the circular released by the Offices of the Registrar of Deeds: Pretoria are as follows:

  • Lodgments of deeds and documents will only be allowed until 11h00 daily;
  • No physical consultations will be allowed and instead consultations will take place either telephonically or via email.;
  • The corrective maintenance of deeds is not allowed; and
  • Except in exceptional circumstances, there will be no putting forward of deeds.

To further highlight the struggles experienced by the various deed offices, since the re-opening in May, the deeds offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Polokwane, Pietermaritzburg and Mpumalanga had to close their doors at various occasions due to staff members testing positive for Covid-19 and, in order to comply with the national lockdown regulations, to decontaminate their buildings in order to resume services. On the 26th of June, the Cape Town deeds office announced that it would be closing its doors for a second time, after being open for just over a month, unable to disclose when it will reopen. These constant closures, the new operation producers introduced at the various deeds offices, together with the fact that only a limited number of staff members are allowed in buildings, has caused such major delays in the examination of deeds that the number of backlogged deeds just from the Cape Town deeds offices are said to have piled up to an enormous 14 000 by middle June.

Additional delays have also been caused by the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000 which states that rates clearance certificates are only valid for a period of 60 (sixty) days from the date of issue. As a result of the abovementioned delays experienced at the deed offices, the 60 (sixty) day validity period on the rates clearance certificates expired for many of the backlogged deeds. Most transactions that were ready for lodgment prior to lockdown now require new rates clearance figures as the certificates have expired.

The following table indicates which deeds offices are currently open and which are currently closed.

Deeds Office Open / Closed Closed until
Cape Town Open
Johannesburg Open
Pretoria Open
Bloemfontein Closed 23/07/20
Pietermaritzburg Open
Polokwane Open
Mpumalanga Closed TBC

VDMA will endeavor to keep its clients updated on the opening and closures of the various deeds offices that may affect their property transactions.


Published: 22 July 2020