'Heed cautionary tales about conveyancers'

Property sellers often choose conveyancers for the wrong reasons. They should be chosen for their track record in efficiency and professionalism and their experience rather than being an acquaintance or a relative,says Lanice Steward, managing director of Knight Frank Anne Porter.

"We have seen cases where a relative is chosen as conveyancer or a friend of a friend, purely to support the person by giving him the business," said Steward. "This can sometimes backfire if the person is a one person operation and is away, which then causes a delay in the transfer because certain paperwork has not been completed and filed."

"If that conveyancer is out of the area in which the agreement was signed then it adds to the complications of not having him/her close by to sign documents and have the buyer and seller meet at his offices to complete all the paperwork."

In some cases the conveyancer can be held liable for the loss of income on the transfer but this, too, is a costly process if it ends up in court.

This is shown in case mentioned recently in a Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes update, where a conveyancer was held liable for the loss of interest due to the seller because he neglected to attend to the bond cancellation, which then caused a delay in transfer.

In this case, Margalit sold his property to X for R3 million and the sale agreement stipulated that the proceeds from the sale had to go to Margalit on registration of the transfer.

There were two mortgage bonds over the property and these were to be cancelled before the transfer could take place. The registration was delayed because the rates clearance certificate was late in being issued and there were oversights on the attorney's side on the bond cancellation, which caused further problems.

Margalit claimed that he was due R42 000 in interest that would have accrued to him, had the sale gone through as it should have and proceeded with a summons against the bank and the transferring attorney.

The court found in favour of Margalit because a conveyancer is "an attorney who has specialised in the preparation of deeds and documents which by law or custom are registerable in a deeds office and who is permitted to do so after practical examination and admission . . .' and so was responsible for the mistakes made in this case.

"While anyone can make mistakes and not every mistake is someone being negligent, if the skill of the person is questionable then they must be held accountable for the mistake," says Steward.

"Delays in the transfer of a home can cause costly repercussions for many involved and this is why it is so important to choose your conveyancer carefully, one with a proven track record."

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