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How do we split joint property assets?

23 Apr 2014

A Property24 reader asks:

A Property24 reader says she and her partner bought properties together but are now separating and need to divide the property assets.

My partner and I are separating. We were never married and so have no legal documents to deal with ownership, assets etc. In our time together we bought a number of properties, some in my name, one in his. In order to divide up our assets fairly it is necessary that he take ownership of one of the properties that is currently in my name. What is the best way to transfer ownership in this case?

Denoon Sampson, a director of DenoonSampson Ndlovu Inc. Conveyancing Attorneys, advises:

How would he take ownership of a property currently in her name?

The answer is that transfer of ownership into his name will have to be registered in the Deeds Office. There is no other option. The process will require a disposal agreement to transfer, repaying any existing mortgage bond, the payment of legal fees, transfer duty and advance levies and/or rates and taxes. A conveyancer will have to control and manage the process.

With regard to the bigger picture of sharing the proceeds of multiple properties, in the absence of any initial co-ownership agreement, The High Court recently, in Dubs vs Dubs, had to consider whether Kim Dubs was entitled to either a 50% share of the net proceeds of numerous properties or just her proportionate share in the value of the properties on termination of the co-ownership.

In order to do this, the court had to first determine the nature of the original agreement between the co-owners at the time they purchased the properties, as they did not originally sign any co-ownership agreement between them. Did Rolf Dubs donate a share in the properties to Kim Dubs or were the properties acquired on a joint venture basis, meaning that would they share the proceeds, in proportion to each party’s original contribution to the acquisition, maintenance and improvement of the properties?

In the query raised here, it seems to imply that the two partners have already come to an amicable settlement by dividing up their assets fairly, thereby avoiding acrimony, delay, uncertainty and litigation costs.

Readers may submit questions to Property24’s Guest Expert panel and/or comment below. We may not be able to answer all questions received, but all will be considered. 

About the Author
Denoon Sampson

Denoon Sampson

Denoon Sampson practised insurance litigation at Deneys Reitz now known as Norton Rose and conveyancing for E Oppenheimer and Sons, Anglo American, SA Permanent Building Society and many others at Weber Wentzel and EFK Tucker. He was a founder member of Sampson Okes Higgins, which became Denoon Sampson Ndlovu and is a consultant to The Standard Bank on its Electronic Payments and Guarantee process. His firm is currently ranked the 'number 1' top performing conveyancer by First National Bank Limited.

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