Check all paperwork in sectional title deals

One would assume when purchasing a sectional title unit with a garage that when it came to selling that unit, all the paperwork would be in order and transfer would go through without a hitch, but in a case dealt with recently by Meg Dugmore, who specialises in sectional title sales at Knight Frank Residential SA, 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).

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, she said. Thankfully, the seller of the property had kept all the paperwork pertaining to her purchase of the unit and it 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 the previous owner was eventually found and transfer of the garage can now go through, but this could have caused a lengthy delay, had they been out of the country or deceased, said Dugmore.

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 said.

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 purchasing corresponds with what is filled in in the sales agreement, advises Dugmore.

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