What is a predial servitude in Property Law

A predial (Brit. praedial) servitude is an incorporeal hereditament burdening a servient estate (praedium serviens) for the benefit of a dominant estate (praedium dominans) to protect the holder in his own rights to the use or enjoyment of property. The two estates must belong to different bare title holders (dominus nudea proprietatis, i.e. fee simple owners). This type of servitude may only burden immovable property (i.e. real property). The right is for the benefit of the dominant estate rather than the person and remains in effect upon its transfer, that is, it runs with the land and extends to any owner, whether the original or successor-in-title. Predial servitudes are limited to:

nonposessory interests: easements appurtenant, whether public or private.

Predial servitudes are generally characterized as:

permanent - the interest is effective for as long as ownership continues, that is, in perpetuity or for a fixed term of years;

accessory - servitudes are inseparable from the dominant estate and run with it, and the property interest cannot be conveyed, leased, or encumbered separately from the dominant estate; and

indivisible - the servitude burdens the whole servient estate and benefits the whole dominant estate; the servitude runs in benefit of each subdivided estate resulting from the partition of the dominant estate, and this does not result in an additional burden for each subdivision on the servient estate.

When a servient estate exists but the servient owner cannot be determined, and where the law allows, a dominant owner may be granted a servitude right a non domino, i.e. absent the servient owner. In this event, the dominant owner will generally not be indemnified by the land registry for the statutory prescriptive period.



To determine when an estate agent would be entitled to commission for a transaction in which he was involved one must firstly look at the agreement entered into between the client and the estate agent.                                                                                                                                                   


At common law the estate agent would be entitled to commission when:

  • The estate agent had a mandate to conclude the transaction on behalf of his principal.
  • The estate agent has performed this mandate; and
  • The estate agent is the effective cause of the transaction.

A. Existence of a Mandate:

Without a mandate an estate agent is not entitled to payment of commission even though his efforts might have been the effective cause of the sale.

What is required for a mandate is a clear undertaking by the seller that he is willing to pay the estate agent commission if the estate agent performs the mandate.

B. Performance of the mandate:

Whether the estate agent has in fact performed his mandate would depend on the agreement between the seller and the estate agent.

If there is no express agreement the following requirements have to be complied with:

  • The estate agent must have introduced a willing and able buyer
  • a binding agreement must have been concluded between the parties in question,
  • the transaction and its terms must be substantially in accordance with what the principal actually envisaged.

C.  The Estate Agent must be the Effective Cause of the Sale:

In order for this condition to be met, the estate agent must show that his activities predominated the purchaser’s decision to buy the property, notwithstanding other factors, which also played a role eg. Intervention of other estate agents , persuasiveness of the seller himself, or that a complete outsider financed the transaction.

It is not enough that the agent was merely a cause of the sale or had some influence – it must be the agent’s introduction that actually led to the sale.

The question often arises in practice in the following circumstances:

  • Where an estate agent introduces a buyer to the seller but the two parties eventually contract privately without anyone assuming liability for payment of commission.
  • Where an estate agent introduces a buyer to a property who eventually buys it through another estate agent.

The following general rules apply:

Importance of the agent’s efforts must be taken into account. – the nature and effect of the efforts is the important part.

The period, which has lapsed between the agent’s introduction of the buyer and the conclusion of the transaction – if the contract is concluded privately between the parties, shortly after the agent’s introduction of the buyer, an inference can be made that the agent was in fact the effective cause of the transaction.

Where the estate agent introduces a prospective purchaser to a property but later breaks off negotiations between the parties, such cessation of negotiations does not necessarily terminate the influence of the initial introduction it does however, have cogent effect on assessing the value of the introduction.


Whether an estate agent was the effective cause of a particular transaction clearly depends mostly on the different facts of each case. Two cases are never identical and every aspect of a case must be considered.

There are countless examples in practice which may arise but if the general rules are applied to the facts of each case this will generally be sufficient to ascertain whether an estate agent was in fact the effective cause of a particular sale.

What is a servitude and how does it impact on a property owner?

A servitude is a limited real right that one person has to the use of another person's property. For example, if you need to drive over a portion of your neighbour's property in order to access your home, you would typically have been granted a servitude of right of way by the neighbour in order to access your home.

The servitude is registered in the deeds office and endorsed against the title deeds of both your property and your neighbour's property, in order to ensure that your neighbour is bound to recognise and allow you to exercise your right in terms of that servitude, for so long as you are the owner of the property.

There are many different types of servitudes. For example, right of way servitudes, servitudes of aquaeductus (which entitle the grantee to draw water from a well or dam or other water source), usus (the right to use a certain portion of a property or the whole of a property), and habitatio (the right to reside in a portion or the whole of a property).

Personal in nature

Servitudes can also be personal in nature (meaning that they will endure only until the death of the person to whom it is granted) or praedial (which means that the servitude is granted not in favour of a person but in favour of a piece of land, and will remain registered in favour of that particular land).

Once a servitude has been registered against the title deeds of the properties concerned it obliges the parties to recognise the servitude and allows the person to whom the servitude is granted to enforce their rights.

However, just because a servitude is not registered, this does not mean that no rights and/or obligations arise between the parties to the servitude agreement. This could happen where, for example, a servitude was intended to be registered but was accidentally not registered.

Another instance in which an unregistered servitude can still result in enforceable rights, is where a servitude called a right of way by necessity arises. This happens in situations where is a servitude comes into existence by virtue of the common law to enable the owner of a 'landlocked' piece of land to access his/her property, regardless of whether there is an agreement between the parties or not to this effect.

Agreement between parties

Most servitudes arise by agreement between the parties and in the case of a personal servitude (which is a servitude granted in favour of a person for the duration of that person's lifetime) the relevant parties will be the person to whom the servitude is granted (the grantee) and the person who is granting the servitude (the grantor).

In the case of a praedial servitude the parties will be the registered owners of the two pieces of land that the servitude concerns. The owner of the piece of land that will be burdened by the servitude (the servient tenement) is called the grantor and the registered owner of the piece of land in favour of which the servitude is being registered (the dominant tenement) is called the grantee.

The relevant parties (the grantor and grantee) will sign a servitude agreement which must be drafted by a Notary Public and notarised by that Notary Public, who will then register the servitude against the title deeds of the two pieces of property (in the case of a praedial servitude) or the one piece of property (in the case of a personal servitude) concerned.

Three ways

A servitude can be created in one of three ways. The first is where an unregistered servitude arises by operation of law (i.e. as described above in relation to a servitude of right of way of necessity). These types of servitudes are not the focus of this article and will not be dealt with further herein.

The second way is where the parties sign a servitude agreement, which is drafted and notarised by a Notary Public, and the registrar of deeds then endorses (stamps) the title deeds of the properties/property concerned to show that it is burdened by or entitled to servitutal rights.

The third way in which a servitude can be created is by the owner of the servient tenement signing a power of attorney authorising a conveyancer to sign and submit the necessary documents at the deeds office to create a servitude. This is commonly done when the owner of the property is going to transfer the property at the same time as the servitude is going to be created, so the conveyancer can draft the new title deed which shall include the reference to the servitude.

Servitudes can be defined in one of two ways. The first is where a diagram showing the land concerned is drafted by a land surveyor and is registered in the Surveyor General's (SG) office and given a unique diagram number, on which diagram the extent of the servitude is indicated by reference to letters. The notary or conveyancer concerned will then describe the extent of the servitude in the relevant document (which may be a servitude agreement or a power of attorney/title deed) by referring to the letters reflected on the SG diagram.

Explaining in words

The other manner in which a servitude can be described is by explaining in words where the servitude lies in relation to the lay of the land, by reference to deeds and diagrams already registered, and describing this in the title deed of a property when it is transferred or in a servitude agreement when it is registered.

If you are purchasing a newly subdivided portion of a parent's erf which is going to be developed into a cluster type development, in which all of the owners of the erven in the development share a common access road to reach their properties, then it may very well be the case that a servitude is created burdening your property to allow other people to drive over a certain portion of your property in order to reach their properties, where at the same time you are given the right to drive over certain portions of their property in order to reach your property.

This is known as a reciprocal right of way servitude, and in situations like these would typically be registered in the same manner over all of the erven in the development to ensure that everybody has the right to drive over a small portion of everybody else's land in order to reach their home.

Very often when properties are sub-divided, consolidated, or developed in any significant manner, the municipality will require that a servitude be registered over a portion of the property in order to enable the municipality, if necessary at any point in the future, to access the property to repair or maintain or lay any new cables, sewers, pipes or any other municipal infrastructure that may supply or be situated on the property.

These types of servitudes are most commonly created simultaneous to transfer, meaning that the servitude itself will be described in the title deed with reference to the lay of the land as described in a pre-existing surveyor general diagram.

Vague description

A servitude cannot be undefined if it is created with reference to an existing SG diagram, as there will always be a reference using letters in the diagram to explain exactly where the servitude exists. However, when servitudes are created in the title deeds of properties, it sometimes happens (especially in relation to municipal servitudes in the Johannesburg municipal area) that the description of the servitude is vague and does not explain precisely where it actually lies.

For example, the authors have seen several examples which typically provide that the City Council will have a servitude two meters wide running along the boundary of the property, or along any two boundaries of the property, that are not street fronts. The problem with this description is that there are typically four boundaries to a property and typically only one them has street frontage, meaning that in a description such as the one quoted for the purposes of illustration here, it is not possible to tell from that description along which one border or two borders of the property concerned the municipal servitude actually lies.

Because servitudes of this nature are created by agreement, the first port of call needs to be the servitude agreement. In some cases there will be a notarial deed of servitude which will contain the agreement between the parties that one can have reference to in order to clarify the intention of the parties, but in other cases (especially in relation to municipal servitudes) there will simply be an instruction from the City Council that such a servitude must be created, coupled with a Power of Attorney signed by the (then) owner of the property authorising the creation of this particular servitude, the two of which need to be read together and understood as the servitude agreement.

If is it still not clear from looking to the original terms of the servitude agreement (or to the instruction by the municipality that the servitude be created) as to along which border of the property concerned the servitude should lie, then the only option to clarify is to resort to the parties to the agreement and ask them as to what their intention was when creating the servitude in the first place.

Time consuming

Where this is a municipality this can be an incredibly time consuming, costly and frustrating experience, as a municipality is essentially being asked, in a situation where it could potentially pick any one or two of three borders of a property, which one or two it would like to pick. In order to answer this question the municipality inevitably circulates the question to all of its technical departments (which in some large metropolitan municipalities can include over twenty separate departments) for comments to see whether any of these particular departments require the servitude to lie along any particular one of the available borders.

Sometimes the comments that come back from the technical departments will not give any clarity to the matter whatsoever, inasmuch as it will still remain open to the relevant person tasked with deciding which borders the servitude runs along, to determine the answer. In other cases the comments that come back conflict, where different technical departments want the servitude to lie along different borders for their own reasons. In either case it makes it very difficult for the person who has to ultimately decide where the servitude lies to make a decision.

For the reasons explained above the process of determining the extent and lay of an undefined servitude can be very frustrating, time consuming, and expensive especially where the determination lies with a municipality. In order to avoid the situation from occurring, it is recommended that notaries and conveyancers who are involved in the creation of servitudes, take great care to ensure that the description of the servitude in the title deed or notarial servitude agreement is explicit enough to avoid the above becoming a problem in the future.

Extracted from http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/173

What is a Registering Attorney in a Property Transaction?

A registering attorney or also known as conveyancer is appointed by the bank, which will hold the new mortgage bond (home loan) over the property. The attorney attends to the registration of the new bond into the name of the buyer. The registration attorney or bond attorney can be nominated by the buyer.

What is the meaning of Domicilium Citandi Et Executandi in a Property Contract?

The physical address to which legal documents and notices must be delivered. Documents or notices delivered to this address are deemed to be received, even if the addressee did not in fact receive it.

What is an Affidavit?

A solemn, sworn statement of fact, declared and signed by the author, in the presence of a commissioner of oaths who in turn testifies to the authenticity of such a statement.

In2assets explains:

The Law defines an affidavit as “A written statement of facts, sworn to and signed by a deponent before a notary public or some other authority having the power to witness an oath, such as a commissioner of Oath.” In other words, when you sign an affidavit, you’re simply attesting, under law, that you swear a statement written in the affidavit is true. A good way to think of an affidavit is as a sort of written court testimony. Where, in a court of law, you’d have to place your hand on a Bible and swear that you’re telling the truth and nothing but the truth, on an affidavit, you simply do this in writing. You’re under oath, but you’re on paper.

What are Administration Fees in a property transactions?

An administration fees can be charged by a bank, insurer or estate agent to cover the costs of the management, control and paperwork related to record keeping and administration and is attributable to the handling and operation of the clients account.

In2assets explains:

Some service providers or agencies charge their clients a percentage or flat amount per transaction or on a monthly basis. 

What is an Access Bond Facility?

An access bond facility allows bondholders to pay extra cash into a home loan account to benefit from savings on interest on the bond, but bondholders can withdraw this cash again if needed. 
An access bond can also be used as an effective tool to manage your money and to pay off your property quicker. It is a mortgage account that is flexible and simple and gives you access to funds accrued while paying off your bond.

In2assets explains:

If, for instance, you purchase a home worth R1m and pay the monthly instalment plus an additional R1 000 a month, Rainer Stenzhorn of in2asets says you will save very little in interest in the first year or so. This is because you will only have paid off an extra R12 000 in capital on the initial amount of R1m.

Stenzhorn says on a 20-month mortgage of R1m, you will have repaid R19 902 in capital in the first year, which would have been R31 902 if you had paid an extra R1 000 a month.

He explains that as time progresses, the outstanding amount of capital will get smaller, meaning the interest component of the monthly instalment will also get smaller as it is calculated on a diminishing outstanding capital amount.

What does the Term “Voetstoots” stands for?

A standard clause in the agreement of sale, which stipulates that the property is sold “as is”, without any guarantees from the seller as to the condition of the property. If there are any defects in the property of which the seller was unaware, the buyer will acquire the property with such defects. The seller can therefore not be held responsible for defects at a later stage. However, all known defects must be mentioned to the buyer upfront. The voetstoots clause does not protect the seller if defects in the property are intentionally hidden to mislead the buyer. Purchasers should carefully inspect the property and not rely on any oral assurance which is not actually guaranteed.

What is a Tripartite Agreement in Real Estate?

A tripartite is a business agreement between three separate parties. This type of contract is commonly used to secure bridge loans for the construction of a home or other real estate.

Tripartite agreements extend credit for construction to the buyer from the construction provider. The provider in turn holds the property as collateral. The primary lender will then pay off the construction loan and assume full liability for the loan upon completion of the construction.