When buying a property (stand/house) in Zimbabwe there are a number of issues to look at so as to protect your hard-earned cash. Below are some of them;
1. First determine whether the property you want to buy is held under an agreement of sale (in which case the rights will be transferred to you by cession) or it has title deeds. The difference between the two is significant for a number of reasons. Where the property is held under an agreement of sale the person is not the ‘owner’ of the land in the legal sense, what he/she has are personal rights to the land. When one buys this land, the rights to the land are transferred to him/her through cession. This is usually the case with most houses in Chitungwiza and other smaller towns. In Harare this is common in Highfields, Mufakose and Mabvuku. On the other hand, where the person who is selling you the land has a title deed he/she is the owner of the land in the legal sense. It is wise to engage a lawyer who can help you understand the nature of the prospective seller’s rights in the land.
2. Where the land is held under a title deed and even if you are shown the original title deed there is need for verification with the Deeds Registry on a number of issues. A deeds search (preferably done on your behalf by a lawyer) will detect mortgage bonds, caveats and other endorsements, if any. You also need to physically see the land being sold and the identity of the seller. Where the rights in the land are to be transferred to you through cession, you need to have sight of the agreement which gives the seller rights in the land. You also need to check with the person or institution which will process the cession for example the council. In some cases there may be conditions for cession to go through.
3. The next stage is to have an agreement of sale drafted and this is better left to legal practitioners. Important terms include whether the purchase price is inclusive of value added tax (where applicable), mode and manner of payment, the stage at which risk will pass, date of occupation and variation of the contract.
4. Where the land is held under a title deed, the process of change of ownership is done through the Deeds Registry Office by a conveyancer. It is the seller who chooses the conveyancer and parties may put a clause in the contract specifying the conveyancing law firm. The buyer will have to pay the conveyancing fees whilst the seller pays the capital gains tax unless there is an exemption. Under cession, the Deeds Office is not involved but the parties simply attend at the council or developer’s offices where cession forms are signed. Cession fees are usually charged.
5. In Zimbabwe marriages are out of community of property. This means that each party in a marriage can independently own or have rights in a property. They can do whatever they want with the property without consulting their spouse unless the property is registered in both their names. Where parties are married they must be alive to this principle when buying a house. Note however that upon divorce the assets of the parties are distributed in terms of the Matrimonial Causes Act.
The contents of this article are for general information purposes only and do not constitute our legal or professional advice. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage of whatsoever nature which may arise from reliance on any of the information published herein.
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