Answer to a question from a reader

If there are two houses on a property, one townhouse and the other an RDP house, will there be two title deeds?

The short answer

It's unclear. If the RDP house was built after the townhouse, both belong to the property owner so there may be just one title deed.

The whole question

Dear Housing

What are the regulations that govern buying an RDP house? I have signed an offer to purchase a township house that also has an RDP house in one compound, meaning there are two houses on the property and two outbuildings. I don’t know whether the sale will come with two title deeds for the two houses.

The long answer

Let’s start with the regulations for buying an RDP house. Like an ordinary house, the title deeds must be transferred into the buyer’s name at the Deeds Office. This is done through a conveyancing attorney or conveyancer. As you know, RDP houses cannot be sold before the beneficiary of the house has lived in it for eight years. You would need to check that the RDP house can be sold, and if there are title deeds. 

In many cases, it has taken so long to get the title deeds for an RDP house that the original beneficiary sells it on the informal market before the title deed has been issued. This is a very risky procedure for the buyer as the title deeds are the only proof of legal ownership, and frequently, family members of the seller have turned up years later claiming the house. Informal cash sales also prevent future buyers and sellers from formal transactions, so the problem is compounded. Obviously, the bank will not give a bond without title deeds which they will keep until the bond is paid off.  

So you need to check whether the seller has the title deeds – and if not, whether title deeds were ever issued. You can check this by going to the Deeds office with the ERF number of the plot and the seller’s name and ID number. The Deeds office will check if title deeds were issued and will make a copy if they exist. This will cost around R14.   

As to whether there would be two title deeds or one for the two houses on the same property, the only information I could find comes from a parliamentary discussion in 2018: in this discussion, Mr Tertuis Simmers asked if beneficiaries of BNG (Breaking New Ground) or RDP houses built on the same plots where there were already houses would get title deeds for the houses. It seems the beneficiaries had been on the waiting list for RDP houses, but had waited so long that they had built their own houses. When the RDP/BNG project was finally approved, the houses were built on the same plots that already had houses. The Housing official said in reply: “If a municipality makes improvements on a beneficiary’s property by building a house on the property, the owner of the property owns whatever is on that property including the new house. It does cost the taxpayer but the Department cannot transfer ownership of the property to a new beneficiary unless the owner of the property sells the property.”

So it may be that there will be one title deed for the whole compound but it is far from clear to me.

You could contact the Housing Enquiries of the Department of Human Settlements at the toll-free Customer service hotline: 0800 146 873 / 012 421 1915.

There is also an organisation that has done very good work in assisting homeowners to get their title deeds – which is often a long, complex and expensive process – which you could also approach for advice. This is the Tenure Support Centre (formerly known as the Transaction Support Centre) based in Khayelitsha. It says that since its establishment in 2018, the TSC has assisted over 1700 clients and secured over 600 title deeds. “It has become a trusted service provider for households who have problems with their title deeds and serves as a key referral point for government departments.” These are their contact details: 

Phone: (065) 041 6832



Wishing you the best,

Answered on Feb. 2, 2024, 1:49 p.m.

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