Spring is in the air, which means romance could be, too. All of which makes the topic for our sixteenth PodAcademy Podcast particularly appropriate. In this episode we’re looking at the effects of marital status on property purchases.
If you prefer to receive expert advice through your headphones, click here to listen to the podcast. For a written exploration of the questions surrounding marriage and homeownership, you’re already in the right place.
For most of us, getting married and buying a home are two of the biggest life decisions we’ll ever make. The fairytale of setting up home with your beloved still holds a great deal of appeal, but it’s also worth considering the legal and financial implications of buying property with the love of your life. The first flush of romance may fade over time, but a bond is typically a 20- or 30-year commitment.
Honesty is always the best policy
Naturally, you want to be able to trust the person you marry – equally, your attorney and the banks need to be able to trust you both. It’s vital that you are completely honest and open about your marital status when you make a joint bond application or apply to register a property.
Your marital status directly impacts your legal status, and this in turn has an effect on property ownership. The Deeds Office, where all changes of property ownership must be registered, will reject an application if it comes to light that your marital status is not what you said it was. This will result in delays and additional costs – the last thing you want when buying a property.
If you purchase a property together and subsequently get married, it pays to inform all relevant parties (that is, your attorney and the bank which gave you the bond) of your change in status. The same naturally applies should you ultimately get divorced, but let’s remain optimistic here and assume that you two lovebirds are in this for the long haul.
Three paths to the same front door
Under South African law, three main types of marriage are recognised. The flavour of nuptials you choose will determine how property ownership is shared between you as a couple. Let’s consider each type of marriage in turn and see how it affects property purchases.
Marriage in community of property
Marriage in “COP” means that all assets and liabilities are automatically split 50:50 from the date of the marriage. That means that you own half of what they own – but you also owe half of what they owe, so it can be a double-edged sword. Again, the family home is likely to be your single greatest asset.
Marriage out of community of property
With this way of tying the knot, there is no sharing of assets – or liabilities. It would be wise to insist on an ante-nuptial contract to regard each person’s assets and liabilities (including property ownership and bond obligations) prior to the marriage. Given that these days most prospective partners come with more baggage than an airport carousel, this could save a lot of future wrangling. If you do have a ‘pre-nup’ drawn up, bear in mind that this must be done three months before any new property registration application.
South Africa isn’t called the Rainbow Nation for nothing, and we are blessed with an amazing diversity of cultures and religious beliefs. Traditional marriage ceremonies and the giving of lobola are recognised as legal marriages and are usually taken to be the same as marriages in COP. It is possible to have an ante-nuptial agreement in these circumstances, but that would be unusual.
New legislation is in the process of being drafted, but at present, Muslim and Hindu wedding ceremonies (and those of some other faiths) are not legally recognised in SA. This means that while you may consider yourself married, a court will not.
Good to know
At Reeflords Property Development, we’re romantics at heart but we’re also experts in the technicalities of buying property. Whether or not you’re married, or planning to be, if you’re buying a home as a couple, talk to us first.
Think home. Think Reeflords.