Bulawayo residents say they are struggling to acquire title deeds for their properties due to the exorbitant fees charged by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC).
Title deeds are documents that represent the registration of a real right in a property at the Deeds Office and this is enshrined in the institution under Section 72 of the Zimbabwe Constitution.
Speaking at a recent Ward 9 residents` meeting, residents from Mpopoma and Matshobana said they do not have title deeds for their properties due to the alleged red tape.
According to Mpopoma community housing officer Alice Guda, there is a procedure that has to be followed for one to acquire a title deed.
“Residents own buildings and for them to get title deeds they have to purchase the land first from the local authority,” said Guda.
“It is the central government’s policy that if you are applying for a title deed you have to be the owner of both the land and the building.”
She said that no one is given a title deed unless they have cleared all council debts.
Meanwhile, Ward 9 Councilor Donaldson Mabutho told CITE that title deeds have varied charges.
“Residents pay different amounts in various offices like ZIMRA, registrar of deeds, lawyers and the city council,” said Cllr Mabutho.
“The charge for both the lawyers and the city council is $400 with ZIMRA and registrar of deeds office excluded.”
In response, the residents said that the process for one to secure a deed requires a lot of money, which residents do not have.
They said that the process was also being complicated by the involvement of lawyers.
“The local authority’s formula is expensive, the lawyers should be removed from the title deeds equation because they are expensive,” said one resident.
“Lawyers these days charge their services in United State Dollars which makes it difficult for us. At this rate, I do not see anyone one securing one.”
Another resident who identified himself as Mr Ndlovu said that title deeds should not apply to houses that were built before independence.
“What is the purpose of title deeds in houses that were built by the Rhodesian government because when we started living here there was an agreement between the government and the council that after paying rates for 25 years we own these houses,” said Ndlovu.
“The agreement guaranteed us full ownership of the houses and our only mandate now is to pay rates.”
Ndlovu argued that the council should demand title deeds from the houses that were built during the Zimbabwean government era.
The residents said that the city council should take into consideration that by hiring lawyers to handle the title deeds issues they misuse the resident’s money.
“The council has all the information about these houses and people who occupy them, they just want to complicate things,” said Mr Nyathi resident from Matshobana.
“Before independence council used to build houses for the people but currently they are selling land that is not developed and to make things worse is the issue of title deeds which are so expensive.”
Another resident went on to say that the local authority should pass on the issues of title deeds to government.
“I think the government will handle this better because currently, I do not see the relevance of a title deed when the council say that it owns the land that I bought,” complained one resident.
Council officials urged residents to embrace the importance of title deeds.
“Residents should note that they cannot access any loans without title deeds hence the need to have these documents,” said Mr P Ngwenya from BCC housing department.
“It is important for residents to acquire title deeds for their properties and stands as a form of security.”
Ngwenya also told the residents that title deeds are not mandatory but rather voluntary.