The Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform published the Deeds Registries Amendment Bill on the 9th of March earlier this year. This marked a thirty-day period where the public commented on the changes the Bill proposes to the Deeds Registries Act of 1937. Essentially, though, the Bill still has a few hurdles to overcome before it can become law. That is why it is not only important to know about its existence and how it affects you, but to also start asking how you could possibly influence its development. One thing is certain, we are excited that government is trying to shake things up and be innovative.

What’s the aim of the Deeds Registries Amendment Bill?

The Bill proposes an overhaul of the way the Deeds Registries Office currently functions. It proposes a change to how conveyancers and other interested persons lodge and access the personal information (names, ID numbers, addresses and possibly even financial information) you have, or will have in the future, at the Deeds Registries Office. If the Bill becomes law, the Deeds Registries Office will operate using an electronic system that enables electronic submission, processing and retention of documents.

What are some of the legal implications of the Bill?

The Deeds Registries Amendment Bill is very closely connected with the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECT Act). This connection brings up a number of questions. How, for example, will the electronic signing and submission of deeds and any other relevant documents work? What about the preparation of those documents, the people that have access to them, and where and how those documents are stored? How safe will all the personal information stored be? It will be interesting to see how these questions are answered.

In answering some of the questions about signatures, the Bill has a requirement that the signing of documents by conveyancers, registrars and any other relevant officer, should be done with an advanced electronic signature. This provision is unlikely to change because the ECT Act supports it. The Act states that where a signature is required by any law, only an advanced electronic signature will suffice.

POPI and the Deeds Registries Amendment Bill

Another question worth asking is: What will the relationship between the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) and the proposed changes be? The short answer is that POPI definitely applies. It sets conditions for the processing of personal information by responsible parties. Responsible parties in this context include conveyancers, banks, the attorneys registering bonds and registrars. The conditions the Act sets will be important to bear in mind if the Bill becomes law and the Deeds Registries Office operates in terms of it.