Legal battle over property transfers and jurisdictions

08 Feb 2018

A legal battle has erupted between a company which said it had a business model which could deal with the day-to-day administrative aspects of property transfers and the legal fraternity. But, the legal fraternity says, transfers are in law reserved to conveyancers or legal practitioners.

Newly-established company Proxi Smart Services Pty Ltd turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to get the blessing of the court to implement a business model for performing the administrative and related services pertaining to property transfers.

They want to take over the portion of the work that is not in law allowed, which is reserved for conveyancers or legal practitioners.

According to Proxi, there is ordinary day-to-day work associated with property transfers done by either secretaries or clerks working for law firms, which they (Proxi) can handle.

But the legal profession is adamant that it should be "hands-off" their conveyancing terrain. Various legal bodies, including the Law Society of South Africa and the various law societies across the country, as well Justice Minister Michael Masutha, are opposing the application.

Proxi yesterday asked a full bench (three judges) to declare their business model did not contravene the Attorneys Act and the Deed Registries Act.

The Law Society in turn launched a counter-application for an order declaring Proxi's model to be in contravention of the code of conduct for estate agents and the Consolidated Rules for the Attorneys Profession.

The view of the Law Society, the provincial law societies and the Attorneys Fidelity Fund is that the Proxi proposal cannot be supported as the full conveyancing process is regarded as professional work, and should remain so in the interest of the public, since the public is protected through the Fidelity Fund.

But Proxi submitted that its model is lawful and does not contravene any legislative provisions as claimed by the Law Society. Proxi said the focus of their model was on the performance of non-reserved administrative services, such as obtaining certificates and documents from regulatory bodies like municipalities and the SA Revenue Service, and managing the interactions between the parties involved in the property transfer process.

The Law Society said the tasks a modern-day conveyancer and his or her staff performed were not only defined by legislature, but by long-established practice. It was said conveyancing work required legal skill and it was not as simple as Proxi claimed it to be. The matter continues.

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