Servitudes, including municipal servitudes, can affect the value of a property for both buyers and sellers. While it may not be an issue for some, there are buyers who can be turned off once they discover that a servitude is held on a property. As a result, the demand for the property can be reduced which will have a negative impact on its perceived value in the market.

It is thus rather important to know what you’re up against and to ask the right questions from the outset if you are planning on investing in property.

So what is a Servitude?

In layman’s terms, servitudes are rights of way that other people or entities have over an erf (registered plot of land). The holder of a servitude has priority and is allowed to do something with another person’s property which may infringe on the rights of the property owner. The property owner will not be able to exercise any rights that are contrary to the servitude.

There are two main types of servitude:

Praedial servitude – A person has a right of use of the servitude, such as municipal sewer lines, because he is the owner of a property. When the property is sold, the servitude will automatically have to be honoured by the new property owner.

Personal servitude – This is a right in favour of a specific individual. When the individual sells the property, the servitude falls away and does not pass onto the new property owner.

Most people know about municipal servitudes whereby a section of a property is reserved by the municipality for services such as sewer or storm water lines. These servitudes are usually 2m to 3m wide, at the rear or to the sides of an erf.

Another type of servitude, although not very common, would be a right of way, such as a road that has been added for a person to use to gain access to their property. There are also servitudes that ensure that a property’s access to light and an open view is not impeded by other property owner’s trees or buildings.

Existing servitudes can be found in the Title Deed of a property, so make sure to scrutinise this document when house or property hunting.

Unlike a building line, you cannot apply for a relaxation, meaning that you cannot build over municipal servitudes, or any other praedial servitudes for that matter, without having it first written out of your Title Deed, which is a long and rather involved process. There will also be an exclusion zone around a servitude, depending on what it is.

Important Questions to Ask

Are there any height restrictions, zoning or servitudes on the property? It may be a good idea to get an attorney to do a thorough historical deeds search should you be in any doubt.

If there is a servitude on the property, is it personal or praedial? If a service provider like Eskom, for example, has a servitude on a property for the erection of power lines, this would prevent or limit activities that may affect their operations, such as no tall buildings or trees within the servitude which would negatively impact the selling price of that property.

If you are buying in a developing suburb, are there any municipal servitudes envisaged for the future? For example, overhead power lines can have adverse health implications which could thus negatively detract from your property value if such a servitude were to be developed right next door.

If the property is on a panhandle stand, is there a registered servitude over the front of the property? In this case, a servitude is a good thing as it will ensure unhindered access to your own property.

The Property Partnership specialises in property valuations, as well as assets, business, and plant valuations. Give us a call on 0860 999 440 to get a fair and accurate property valuation on your future investment.