Answer to a question from a reader

How are council houses inherited by the deceased owner/tenant's children?

The short answer

If there is no will, the Intestate Succession Act will apply.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My mother passed away 25 years ago. Five of her children live in her council house. My one sister claims that she is almost the owner of the house even though we never signed for it. She locks me and my kids out of the house. How should the house be divided?

The long answer

I presume that you are either still renting the house, or that it was bought and put into your mother’s name. If it was bought and in your late mother’s name, she could choose to leave it to her children in her will. If she died without a will, the children would inherit the property under the Intestate Succession Act, and all her children would have an equal share.

If you do not have the title deeds, you could ask the municipality to tell you in whose name the house was registered. The municipality should have copies of all the documents. You can also call the City’s contact centre at all hours on 0860 103 089.

When the owner of a property dies, the property has to be transferred into the name of the new owner; it cannot remain in the name of a deceased person.

If the title deeds are not in your sister’s name, she is not the legal owner of the house. She does not have any right to lock you and the children out of the house.

Perhaps there is someone whom all four siblings trust that you could ask to call a meeting with all four of you present, where you can discuss the problematic situation and come to some agreement about everyone’s rights.

If you are still renting the house, you may be interested to know that in October 2022, the Mayor of Cape Town announced a new scheme called the No Cost Transfer Programme, to help tenants to become owners of their council houses. Before, tenants could buy their houses from the City, but they needed to pay half the transfer costs themselves, and these costs can be very high. Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said that the City would now keep the transfer costs at R2,500 no matter how much the property cost, to assist people to become homeowners. The City would also write off previous rent and municipal arrears where these were higher than the national housing subsidy.

This may be something you and your siblings could discuss and come to a decision about how to go forward.

The Cape Argus reported on 28 October 2022 that the City “owns about 7,500 saleable community rental units, 12,000 delayed transfer units and 1,500 serviced sites that can be sold and transferred to eligible tenants.”

In Parow, there is something called the Enhanced Extended Discount Benefit Scheme (EEDBS). It says that it is “…a National Housing Programme subsidy intended to motivate and facilitate the transfer of public housing stock (delayed transfer properties, saleable rental units and serviced sites) to qualifying occupants.

“If you qualify, you will receive a discount on any outstanding debt associated with your property (purchase price, services, rental, loans), and in some cases your debt may be written off in full depending on your monthly income and other qualifying criteria.”

General enquiries

Housing hotline:021 444 0333
Customer care hotline: 0800 323 130

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Jan. 17, 2023, 11:48 a.m.

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Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.