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Clarity and legibility

15 June 2005

Marie Grové has grave concerns pertaining to amendments to deeds and documents, and the legibility of the handwriting in deeds and documents lodged at the deeds registries. She considers it necessary to address this issue.

Regulation 20(1) of the Deeds Registries Act 47 of 1937 provides as follows in this regard: "Deeds and other documents lodged for execution, registration or record shall be on paper approved by the Registrar and shall be in clear writing, print or of good quality … "(the author's underlining).

Amendments in deeds are brought about where it is not possible to change information due to the lack of space, and where it would rather be advisable to redraft the page. Certain hand-written amendments are too small and not legible, not to mention the problems which may occur when microfilming or scanning takes place. It would appear that once documents are lodged, their subsequent rectification takes place in a haphazard fashion. It often occurs that copies of deeds are issued, in which changes or amendments were not clearly affixed and are therefore not legible, once copied.

A further issue that needs to be addressed is the endorsement of deeds. Regulation 20(1) does not only apply to conveyancers and should also be applied when deeds are endorsed. The endorsement of deeds and the handwriting in the endorsements leave much to be desired. Not only are endorsing and handwriting matters of concern, but also the quality of the ink (Regulation 20(4)). Notes raised in deeds are scribbled in such a manner that a person would sometimes think it is in a foreign language.

In this regard, some guidelines were provided in a registrar's circular issued in the Pretoria Deeds Registry, which addresses the matter of clarity and legibility of deeds and documents (Registrar's Circular 6/1994 - intern for the examiners). The registrar appealed to the examiners to apply greater care in the endorsement and completion of endorsements, and to write in block letters.

Endorsements must also be affixed in a chronological order and, most importantly, must be approximately 20 mm apart. When the first page of a deed has already been endorsed, an additional page, which has been identified with the title deed by writing the page and title number at the top, must be added to the deed. These principles should be strongly enforced to address the aforesaid concerns.

Initialling of amendments is another aspect for discussion. It is often noticed that amendments in endorsements are not made properly, are illegible, or are not initialled by the person who effected the amendment. Sometimes, when title deeds are lodged, it is uncertain at what stage amendments were made to such title. Did the client/conveyancer/clerk/typist amend the deed subsequently to the registration thereof, or was it properly amended and initialled before registration? To preclude any doubt, the date of amendment should be affixed together with the initials, in respect of the amendment made by the conveyancer in the deed, or by the examiner in the endorsements.

It is proposed that conveyancers should not accept poor endorsements and handwriting in deeds. If spotted on preparation, prior to registration of the deed, conveyancers must insist on having it re-endorsed properly.

Note the registrar's plea at the end of the above-mentioned circular: "Ondersoekers, ons wil graag saam met u trots wees op die professionele werk wat in die ondersoekafdeling gedoen word"

Translated: "Examiners, we would like to be proud together with you with regard to the professional work performed in the examination section" - SA Deeds Journal Editor.

Please take note that the above observation is based on the author's personal experience in one deeds registry. It is not an assumption pertaining to all examiners or to other deeds registries.

Originally published in SA Deeds Journal

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