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Check paperwork when buying ST unit

When buying a sectional title unit with a garage one would assume that when it came to selling that unit, all the paperwork would be in order and transfer would go through without a hitch.

There are often cases of incorrectly numbered sections or of misunderstandings as to what is actually owned in sectional title schemes, and buyers should always ask to check the section plan to be sure that the unit and garage they intend buying corresponds with what is filled in for the sales agreement.

However, in a case dealt with recently by Meg Dugmore, who specialises in sectional title sales at Knight Frank Residential South Africa, it was found that the garage had not been transferred to the current owner from the previous one.

The failure to transfer the garage in this case was actually a conveyancing error. The section number of the garage was correctly recorded on the original sale agreement, but somehow it managed to fall through a legal crack and was overlooked.

Usually, each part of a sectional title scheme is given a section number and these numbers will then be marked on a section plan of the development. The apartments and garages are given separate section numbers as these are usually sold separately to the buyers and sometimes kept by the body corporate (to be used as exclusive use areas) or by the developer (who might rent them out).

Dugmore says this is quite an unusual case in that the previous sale took place 18 years ago and in the transfer process, the section number which was the garage was left off the transfer documents and only the apartment was transferred, leaving the garage registered to the previous owner. Thankfully, the seller of the property had kept all the paperwork pertaining to her purchase of the unit, which then assisted in the process of finding the previous owner, who then had to be traced and contacted to sign documents before the garage could be transferred to the buyer.

Fortunately, Dugmore says the previous owner was eventually found and transfer of the garage could then go through, but this could have caused a lengthy delay, had they been out of the country or deceased.

Another fortunate thing is that the transfer of the apartment could go through separately and the buyer did not have to wait for these to be transferred simultaneously, she says.

There are often cases of incorrectly numbered sections or of misunderstandings as to what is actually owned in sectional title schemes, and buyers should always ask to check the section plan to be sure that the unit and garage they intend buying corresponds with what is filled in for the sales agreement, she says.

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