Answer to a question from a reader

Can I get my late uncle's house, which his girlfriend had been living in with him, transferred to me, his niece?

The short answer

If your uncle died without a will and his girlfriend is not on the RDP application, the law of intestate succession applies.

The whole question

My uncle passed away with no wife or children. My family appointed me to step up and take over the house. The problem is that my uncle was staying with his girlfriend in his house and still lives there. Is there anything I can do to get the house registered to me?

The long answer

Your uncle would have had to name a partner when he applied for his house, as RDP houses are only given to people who are “married or living with a partner, or single and have dependants,” although single military veterans or aged people without dependents also qualify. (For more information see this GroundUp article.)

Perhaps you should start by finding out if your uncle had title deeds to the house in his name as title deeds are the only legal proof of ownership. If you are not sure if title deeds were issued, you would need to go in person to the local Deeds Office, taking your uncle’s death certificate, ID, the erf number of the house and any other documents that prove he was the owner of the house, and ask the person at the reception desk to do a search for the title deeds. This would cost about R14.00.

If no title deeds were issued, you would need to ask the municipality to assist as a house cannot be transferred without title deeds. 

If his girlfriend’s name was the one your uncle gave when he applied for the house, the housing department would have a record of that name. Since she would not qualify for an RDP house again as she was already part of a successful application, the housing department would not remove her from her home.

If his girlfriend was not the partner he named when making the RDP application, he could still leave the house to her if he named her as his heir in his will. 

If he died without a will, his girlfriend would not inherit the house. In that case, the law of intestate succession applies. This means that if there is no wife or children, more distant blood relatives like nieces or nephews can inherit.

For estates valued at less than R250,000 the death can be reported to the magistrate’s court and a letter of authority can be received the same day. If the family has chosen you to receive the letter of authority to administer the estate, you will need to obtain a certified copy of the J192 next of kin affidavit from the Master’s Office, which identifies the heirs.

You could also ask for advice from Legal Aid, which is a means-tested organisation. This means it assists people who cannot afford to pay a lawyer.

  • Legal Aid Advice Line (Toll-free): 0800 110 110

  • Please-Call-Me number: 079 835 7179

Answered on Dec. 1, 2020, noon

See more questions and answers

Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.