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Q: We are considering putting in an offer for our first property.

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It is a smallholding but our neighbours have a servitude on a small area of the property which they mainly use for access. They also have some fruit trees on it. We are worried this may have an unforeseen impact on us. What should we bear in mind when considering whether to buy this property?

A: A servitude allows a third party, who is not the owner of the property, certain limited rights over the property.

Essentially, what this means is the owner of the property may exercise all their usual rights of ownership, provided it does not impede the rights of the servitude holder. Similarly, the servitude holder may utilise the servitude but should do so in a way that causes the least possible inconvenience to the owner of the property.

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Most servitudes will be passed over to the new owner of the land on which the servitude is held if the property is later sold.

The owner of the property on which the servitude is held is not required to get permission from the servitude holder before they sell but the new owner of the property will be required to honour the servitude agreement.

While servitudes may not be an issue for some buyers, others may be deterred. This can reduce the demand for a property which in turn can have a negative impact on what asking price it can achieve. – Adrian Goslett, chief executive of Re/Max of Southern Africa

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