In our previous article, we looked at how title deeds fraud is on the rise. We also looked at how you can mitigate this by being constantly on your toes and doing regular title deeds searches. The question on a lot of people’s minds would have been: How does one conduct a title deed search in Zimbabwe? In other countries, this procedure is pretty well documented. In contrast here, things are a little murky in most cases it is prudent to physically go to the deeds office. In the next article, we will cover the process of how you can do the search online.
Before you run to the nearest deeds office there are things you need to consider when intending to do a title deed search for a property you own. Some of these things include:
Does your property have title deeds? Normally this question can be answered during the purchase process. As we already hinted in the original article there are several types of ownership models and in Zimbabwe, the most popular form of “ownership” is through cession. A lot of houses in multiple neighborhoods are sold through cession where the current owner or user cedes exclusive usage rights to a property to another user. You often see this in new neighborhoods. A property sold under this mode of transference has no title deeds associated with it. More often than not this eventually changes and properties sold this way eventually gain title deeds. It is important to always be on the lookout from your neighborhood property developers concerning news about the transition from cession to title deeds.
If you buy a property through a bank it is common for the bank to hold on to the title deeds. Instead of getting an umbrella and dashing to the Deeds office, you can easily check your title deeds through them. The bank keeps title deeds as a way to enforce its encumbrance on the property. Banks are generally trustworthy that is why I suggested using encumbrances as a tripwire to prevent title deed fraud in the first article.
If you actually have a copy of the title deeds then you are good to go. If you are a prospective buyer you can go and do the search yourself but that is pretty unwise. The same reasons why you shouldn’t do heart or brain surgery to yourself apply here. You are better off utilizing the services of a trusted and well established agent here even if they charge a commission. It’s better than you banging your head around only to find that you have been defrauded by savvy fraudsters down the lane.
Once we have gotten the preliminary items above out of the way it is time to visit the Deeds Office. If you are in Harare or Bulawayo you are in luck, there are local deeds offices in these cities. If you are from another town or province you have to visit the nearest Office in either one of these cities. The addresses of the two offices are as follows:
The Office in Harare is along Nelson Mandela Avenue and is housed in Century House on East 38.
The Bulawayo Office is housed in Tredgold Building on Corner Fort Street and Leopold Takawira Street
When you get there you will have to take these steps to do the search:
Get in line as there are probably other people attempting to do a search
Present yourself to the information desk
Pay the search fee (currently $100 ZWL).
Give the assistant manning the desk the name of the property owner. They will do a search and give you a Deed number
Go to the search room and look for the Deed book with the corresponding number. The deed you are looking for will be in that Deed book and you can find it in that Deed book. That Deed will have all the corresponding information you are looking for. The information will include:
The physical location of the property
The registered owner of the property in question
When the property was last transferred and the reason for this transfer e.g. sale, Estate Transfer etc.
Any encumbrances on the property
Conditions (associated with the property)
As you can clearly tell this information would be of relevance if you are a current or prospective owner.
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