ProBono.Org’s Housing Information Day

December 1st, 2013

By Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele

ProBono.Org held its Housing Information Day on 16 October at the Women’s Jail in Constitution Hill where ProBono.Org gave advice and legal assistance to attendees on a pro bono basis. One of the main objectives of the event was to educate people on property ownership and the rights that occupants of homes have.

Event organiser and staff attorney at ProBono.Org, Annelie du Plessis, said that the event was held in conjunction with the United Nations’ (UN) World Habitat Day, which is celebrated annually on the first Monday of October. The event aims to recognise the basic and continuing need for affordable, adequate housing and shelter and to emphasise the importance of safety in homes, shelters and buildings. Housing Information Day was also initiated to educate the community on what ownership of immovable property entails as well as to offer continuing legal support where it was required.

According to Ms Du Plessis approximately 50 clients consulted with the attorneys and advocates. Of those, 27 clients were given once-off advice, 12 clients were referred back to ProBono.Org for further assistance and the volunteer attorneys who consulted immediately took on four matters. Eighteen attorneys, candidate attorneys and advocates volunteered on the day.

The speakers at the event included the Johannesburg Acting Registrar of Deeds, Makaziwe Mahlangu; Deputy Director of the Assets Disposal and Regularisation Unit of the Gauteng Provincial Department of Housing, Ronnie Stevens and Outreach Facilitator of the Office of the Public Protector, Maureen Mabase.

‘Through our work, ProBono.Org has noted that many of the clients do not understand the concept of ownership and face on-going issues with the family home concept. In this regard, properties are often registered in one family member’s name, often by agreement that the home will stay a family home but ultimately leading to this family member taking out a bond, defaulting and losing the property, or applying for the eviction of the other family members. We often see this scenario in our deceased estates department as well, where no provision is made for the remaining family members,’ said Ms Du Plessis.

Ms Mahlangu informed the attendees of the duties of the deeds registry and explained in which situations a person may approach the deeds office for information or assistance. She also explained what it means to own property and touched on the process of transferring properties and registering title deeds at the deeds registry.

Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele,

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2013 (Dec) DR 10.