Sarah-Jayne Meyer, in this Private Property article discusses the where and the how of subdivision of your property. With densification encouraged by most major metros in South Africa, the subdivision of properties is becoming increasingly common. 

Subdivision involves dividing an existing property into smaller pieces of land, each with a new erf number. Certain restrictions apply, so before you consider subdividing your property, you need to check with your municipality which rules and regulations apply to your neighbourhood.

The regulations for subdivision can differ from one municipality to another and often even for different suburbs in the same municipal area. In one suburb, the minimum size of plots could be as much as 4 000m2 whereas in a neighbouring suburb plots may generally be far smaller.

Subdivision and rezoning often go hand in hand because of title deed restrictions. For instance, if you want to divide a 4 000m2 property into four separate residential plots, you will need to apply to rezone the property from Residential 1 status with just one dwelling allowed to a property zoned for one dwelling for each 1 000m2 portion.

Pros and cons

For property owners, there are several benefits to subdividing a property. These include:

    • A cash injection if sections of the property are to be sold.

    • An additional source of income if sections of the property are to be let.

    • Reduced rates and taxes and lower maintenance costs on the remaining portion.

    • The possibility of achieving a higher price when selling.

Drawbacks include:

    • The process is complex and time-consuming.

    • Extensive documentation is required by local authorities, which usually entails employing professionals such as town planners, draughts people, architects, engineers, and surveyors. Costs can mount significantly.

    • Legal and municipal fees tend to be high.

Complex process

Subdividing property is a very complex process. It is also time-consuming and often takes up to two years - especially if your application is delayed by objections and restrictive title conditions.

    • First, you need to find out whether subdivisions in your suburb are permitted in terms of the zoning provisions, local authority by-laws, and provincial legislation.

    • Usually, you will need to get the consent of your neighbours. You must inform them by registered letter of your intention to subdivide as well as advertise your intention in the legal notices sections of local newspapers, calling for objections.

    • Once the neighbours have given their approval, you need to apply for approval from the local authority. To do this, you need to submit detailed plans to the municipality.

    • You will also need to apply for the rezoning of the property at the deeds registry. This will require a surveyor to draw up plans for the subdivision, which need to be approved by the Surveyor General.

    • The next step is for the town planning department to refer the matter to the relevant committees for the final decision on whether or not the subdivision can go ahead.

Once all the approvals have been obtained, your conveyancing attorney will be able to apply for the title deed to be amended to reflect the newly subdivided piece of land into separate erfs.