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BEFORE SIGNING A LEASE

BEFORE SIGNING A LEASE

Tenants often take the signing of a lease agreement lightly and don’t read carefully through the terms and conditions. A proper lease agreement will ensure that both parties’ rights are protected. Landlords must ensure that they include all the necessary information in a lease agreement, while tenants must make sure that all the points discussed with the landlord are included in the lease, instead of just assuming that they are.

Enquire about costs and duration

The monthly rental cost and duration of the lease (including specific dates) must clearly be stated in the lease agreement to avoid any confusion regarding this matter. The lease agreement should also clearly indicate how and when any increases in rent will take place. If the landlord doesn’t provide you with this information, ask him/her to give it to you in writing so you can keep it on record.

The lease should also clearly explain any deposits (e.g. the rental deposit) that have to be paid, as well as the terms and conditions regarding the refund of deposits. All other variable usage expenses (like water or electricity) that the tenant will have to pay should also be clearly stated.

Some rental properties include utilities within the monthly rental cost, while others don’t. Some properties might offer on-site gym memberships, for example, which could save you money. Before you sign the lease to a property, ask your landlord what is included in the rental rate.

Get information regarding changes to the property

Once the landlord has agreed to rent out his property to you, make sure that you document any pre-existing damages to the property and its amenities before you sign the lease. Ask whether these damages can be fixed at the landlord’s expense.

Both the landlord and the tenant are responsible for the maintenance of the property. The responsibilities of both parties should be clearly stated in the lease agreement. The lease agreement should also indicate how the tenant must report any problems that require repair.

Make sure which amendments can be made to the property. Rather know the rules and stick to them, instead of making an alteration and then finding out afterwards that your landlord is unhappy with it. Just imagine your landlord’s disgust after finding out that you’ve repainted his freshly white-painted walls red!

Conclusion

Tenants should be sure to understand the contents contained in the lease agreement and that they understand all the clauses, terms and conditions to avoid any surprises later. While renting a property isn’t as much of a financial commitment as buying a home is, tenants should remember that a lease is nevertheless a legally binding document, meaning that they should make sure that they agree with everything contained therein before they sign it.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

JOINT OWNERSHIP: HOW DO I TERMINATE WITHOUT THE CO-OPERATION OF THE OTHER JOINT OWNER?

JOINT OWNERSHIP: HOW DO I TERMINATE WITHOUT THE CO-OPERATION OF THE OTHER JOINT OWNER?

Nature of joint ownership:

Joint owners own undivided shares in the property which they own jointly. Consequently, the joint owners cannot divide the joint property while the joint ownership remains in existence, and a joint owner also cannot alienate the property or a part thereof without the consent of the other joint owner. The rights in respect of the joint property need to be exercised jointly by the owners thereof.

Ways in which joint ownership can arise:

Joint ownership can come into existence by way of an inheritance in which an indivisible property is left to more than one person in indivisible shares; by way of a marriage in community of property, by the mixture of movable property in such a way that it forms a new movable item or by way of an agreement in terms of which the parties agree to jointly buy a property and that both will have equal indivisible shares in the property.

Division of joint property:

Any joint owner can claim the division of the joint property according to that joint owner’s share in the property.[1] It is a requirement for the division of the joint property that the parties need to try to divide the property among themselves first, before approaching the Court for an action to divide the property, which action is called the actio communi dividendo[2].

The underlying principle of the actio communi dividendo is that no co-owner is normally obliged to remain such against his will. If there is a refusal on the part of one of the co-owners to divide, then the other co-owner can go to Court and ask the Court to order the other to partition. The Court has a wide discretion in making a division of the joint property, which is similar to the discretion which a court has in respect of the mode of distribution of partnership assets among partners. 

The Court may award the joint property to one of the owners provided that he/she compensate the other co-owner, or cause the joint property to be put up to auction and the proceeds divided among the co-owners.[3]  Where there is no agreement between the parties as to how the joint assets are to be divided a liquidator is ordinarily appointed, and he can then sell the assets and divide the proceeds, if it is not possible to divide the assets between the parties.[4] If the immediate division of the joint property will be detrimental to the parties, the Court can order in certain cases that the division or the sale of the property be postponed for a period.[5]

It is beneficial that there exist means to divide assets which are jointly owned by parties, who no longer wish to be co-owners, but who cannot reach an agreement on the division of the assets. Without such an action, people might be stuck with a property which they derive no benefit from because it is in the possession of the other co-owner, who refuse to sell the property.

[1] Inleiding tot die sakereg, Van Niekerk & Pienaar, Juta, p 53 – 61.

[2] Robson v Theron 1978 (1) SA 841 (A).

[3] 1978 (1) SA 841 (A).

[4] 1978 (1) SA 841 (A).

[5] Van Niekerk & Pienaar, p 61 – 62.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

There is a way to keep the view

There is a way to keep the view

When you purchase a house with a view, you probably think that you are going to enjoy this view every day for the rest of your life. Until you receive a flyer with a picturesque multi-story building guaranteed to block your view. This will definitely result in a few disputes that will leave you wishing you had secured your view.

Right to the view

Just because the property has an unrestricted view, it does not mean that the view is the owner’s. To secure it, a registration of a servitude against the title deeds of the properties in the Deeds Office. This includes the natural growth of trees or plants that will block the view over time.

The registered servitude

The registration of the servitude must be made clear where the intentions of the servitude are established and made clear. This is so that when an issue regarding property views reaches the court, the court would need not be concerned about ambiguity and surrounding circumstances.

Court’s considerations

Before reaching a decision, the court may be mindful of considerations when the servitude is interpreted. The result will try, as far as possible, to alleviate burdens on the servient property owner. Emphasis is placed on views and the purpose of the servitude as to provide unobstructed views as they existed at the time of the creation of the servitude.

A new property owner may have to consider the type of building they are wishing to erect so it does not impose on any restrictions in terms of an agreement made by the “owner” of the view.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

WHEN CAN THE MUNICIPALITY DISCONNECT MY WATER AND ELECTRICITY?

WHEN CAN THE MUNICIPALITY DISCONNECT MY WATER AND ELECTRICITY?

The municipality is the place where most, if not all, services are monitored for their availability to a property, and it is the very place that may cut off the supply of said services. Their authority does, however, come with the responsibility of remaining within the legal boundaries of managing the supply of services to properties. This article will explore the legalities of disconnecting water or electricity.

Accounts in arrears

If one of your municipal services is in arrears, the municipality is well within their rights to disconnect whatever service when there are undisputed arrears owed to any other service in connection with the related property. Before any disconnection takes place, there is a procedure for the municipality to follow.

Notices

The municipality is legally obligated to give a notice to the person responsible for the account. A minimum of 14 days written notice of termination is required for water and electricity accounts in arrears and if the notice period is shorter than 14 days, or not supplied, the disconnection is illegal. The 14-day notice gives the responsible party an opportunity to present any disputes or queries they may have regarding the account or allow them to repay the arrears.

The query period

Once a query relating to the account has been put in, the municipality may not disconnect services provided that the amount being queried is equal to the amount in arrears. In the case where the amount is less that the amount in arrears, the service may be disconnected for the undisputed amount owing.

Payment of arrears

When a query has been logged, it can only be valid for so long provided that the monthly bill or any other related payments are being made to the respective account. If the responsible person does not make any form of payment, the service may be disconnected even if a logged query exists with the municipality.

State where the payment should go

If there is an account dispute and the responsible person makes a payment to the municipality, the municipality may choose to allocate that money to any account they wish to do so. This means the account in need of the payment may not have the payment made into it. To curb this, the responsible person must notify the municipality, in writing, of the payments being made as well as which account they should be allocated to. This must be done before payment is made.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

CAN MY PROPERTY BE USED FOR AIRBNB?

CAN MY PROPERTY BE USED FOR AIRBNB?

When deciding whether to become an Airbnb host, it’s important for you to understand how the laws work in your city.

According to Brett Herron, the mayoral committee member for transport and urban development at the City of Cape Town, different holiday accommodation land use types, such as B&Bs and guest houses, are regulated by the City’s zoning scheme, called the Development Management Scheme.

If referring to Cape Town, for instance, the city has a Guest Accommodation Policy that sets out the guidelines that have to be considered when applications are made to obtain the necessary planning permissions. According to the Policy, if you wanted to provide a self-catering, flexible accommodation option in line with current trends for transient guests, visitors and tourists, then these are the guidelines that should be followed:

Purpose

  • A building or group of buildings consisting of separate accommodation units rented for residential purposes, each incorporating a kitchenette / full kitchen, but may also include an option of meals being provided communally to guests.
  • May include communal areas for the exclusive use by lodgers / transient guests.

Scale

  • Form and scale of development determined by development parameters of particular zone (i.e. floor space, building lines, height) and the site context.
  • No general restriction on number of units, but must be locally appropriate in context of the building/site characteristics and surrounding area.
  • Council may determine / restrict the number of units per development in cases and lay down conditions necessary to mitigate the impact thereof.

Location

  • Not supported on a single residential zoned property, subject site must have suitable general residential, mixed use or commercial zoning.
  • Locational criteria that should be considered, include:
  • proximity to public transport routes, commercial centres and tourist activities.
  • character of the surrounding area;
  • mixed use or commercial locations (including areas designated for high density development) are encouraged.

Conclusion

In many cities, you must register, get a permit, or obtain a licence before you can list your property or accept guests. Certain types of short-term bookings may be prohibited altogether. Local municipalities may also vary greatly in how they enforce these laws. However, it is not impossible to list your property on Airbnb, you just have to find out from the local municipality if you have the correct permissions and if the property has the correct zoning.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Reference

Guest Accommodation Policy, the City of Cape Town, Department of Planning & Building Development Management.

“Regulating Airbnb in Cape Town”, Jan Vermeulen, MyBroadband. https://mybroadband.co.za/news/government/210884-regulating-airbnb-in-cape-town.html

UNDERSTANDING SALES

UNDERSTANDING SALES

You decide to buy a fridge and a washing machine on Gumtree. It is important to note that there are several elements involved in this seemingly simple sale: (1) the sale agreement; (2) the transfer of ownership; (3) the risk of damage to the items; and (4) defects in the item.

(1) Sale Agreement

The law distinguishes between the contract of sale and the actual transfer of ownership. These two are treated as separate events in the overall transaction. The sale agreement is the underlying contract in terms of which the seller undertakes to transfer the property to the buyer in exchange for consideration. All the remedies under the law of contract are available here and it is in terms of the sale agreement where the buyer is afforded the most legal protection e.g. if the seller guarantees the washing machine will work for 3 years and it does not, then you can claim from the seller for breach of contract; or if the seller misrepresents that the washing machine is a front-loader when in fact it is a top-loader, the contract can be cancelled on the basis of misrepresentation and the goods and monies paid are to be returned. However, the agreement of sale does not on its own transfer property from the seller to the buyer.

(2) Transfer of Ownership

To pass ownership there must be delivery of the item and the intention to actually transfer ownership. In the case of a cash sale, the price must also be paid at the same time as delivery in order for ownership to transfer. In a credit sale, ownership passes on delivery and payment of the purchase price is postponed. In our law, ownership can be transferred if these requirements are met without a valid contract of sale. However, the buyer would have a claim against the seller in unjustified enrichment.

(3) Risk

A further element to consider is who bears the risk of damage or destruction to the property before it is delivered. Risk passes from the seller to the buyer when the sale agreement is ‘perfected’. This is when the price has been set; and the item be determined or identified. Any suspensive conditions must also be fulfilled. A suspensive condition suspends the operation of the contract until the happening of a future event e.g. I will sell the washing machine to you if my cousin does not buy it by Wednesday. The operation of this contract is suspended until Wednesday. Where damage takes place prior to the fulfilment of the suspensive condition, the seller bears the risk.

(4) Defects

Where there is a latent defect (one not visible upon reasonable inspection) then the buyer can ask for a reduction in the purchase price. Only where the item is so defective that it is not fit for its purpose and that a reasonable person would not have bought the item, can it be returned. This is the extent of a buyer’s remedies for latent defects. It is only where the seller is a professional seller (e.g. retail store trading in appliances) or a manufacturer, that the buyer claim for all losses e.g. the loss suffered where a faulty washing machine damaged clothing and the surrounding walls and cupboards.

However, where an item is sold ‘voetstoots’, it is sold in its condition ‘as is’. This voetstoots clause forms part of the sale agreement. Where such a clause is present, there is a duty on the buyer to properly inspect the property and ensure that there are no defects. If the buyer notices a defect later on, he will have no remedies available against the seller.

Conclusion

In most cases where you have entered into a sale and are dissatisfied with the outcome, the most extensive relief would be contractual remedies for breach of the sale agreement. However, it is important to establish whether risk has in fact transferred to you before you took delivery of the item. Furthermore, buyers should be cautious as to whether items are being sold ‘as is’, because such a clause leaves the buyer without any remedies where the item is defective. However, this voetstoots clause would not protect a seller who is acting fraudulently. Should you wish to know more, feel free to make an appointment with our offices.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

RENTING PROPERTY TO FOREIGNERS

RENTING PROPERTY TO FOREIGNERS

Renting property in South Africa is a straightforward process. The country has a vast selection of rental accommodation including bachelor flats in apartment blocks, Victorian cottages, stand-alone houses with big gardens, and semi-detached units in modern townhouse complexes.

In South Africa, the right of a foreigner to purchase immovable property was restricted in the past by the Aliens Control Act. These restrictions were uplifted in 2003 by the new Immigration Act (“the Act”) which repealed the Aliens Control Act and many of its restrictive provisions and now clearly defines who a legal foreigner is and who is not. In short, a legal foreigner is a person in possession of a valid temporary residence permit or a permanent residence permit approved by the Department of Home Affairs.

The new Act makes provision for various temporary residence permits to be issued to foreigners, including amongst others:

  • A visitor’s permit
  • A work and entrepreneurial permit
  • A retired person permit

In principle, a landlord or tenant can legitimately lease or sell immovable property to any person recognised under the Act as a legal foreigner.

That said, foreigners working in South Africa with a legal work permit, are not regarded as “non-residents” by the South African Reserve Bank. They are considered to be residents for the duration of the period of their work permit and are therefore not restricted to a loan of only 50% of the purchase price.

It is also important to take note that the Act criminalizes the letting or selling of immovable property to an illegal foreigner by making this transaction equivalent to the aiding and abetting of an illegal foreigner and is such an act classified as a criminal offence in terms of the Act.

In conclusion, a legal foreigner may let or buy immovable property in South Africa, provided that he is the holder of either a legal temporary residence permit or a permanent residence permit approved by the Department of Home Affairs. Ensure that you enquire from your potential tenant or purchaser whether they are legally present in South Africa and obtain the necessary proof from them before entering into any transaction with a foreigner. Also, take account of the restrictions on local financing, particularly where the procurement of financing is a condition precedent to the agreement.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

http://www.expatarrivals.com/south-africa/accommodation-in-south-africa

http://www.avidfirefly.co.za/00000/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=92:can-i-lease-or-sell-my-house-to-a-foreigner?

WHAT DOES THE DEEDS OFFICE DO?

WHAT DOES THE DEEDS OFFICE DO?

A2The Deeds Office is responsible for the registration, management and maintenance of the property registry of South Africa. If you are planning on buying a house, it can be useful knowing about the Deeds Office. However, you would use the services of a conveyancer when buying or selling a house. Your estate agent should be able to recommend a conveyancing attorney to register your home loan and transfer a property into your name.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal term for the process whereby a person, company, close corporation or trust becomes the registered and legal owner of immovable property and ensures that this ownership cannot be challenged. It also covers the process of the registration of mortgages.

Steps taken by the conveyancer:

  1. The conveyancer lodges your title deed and other documents in the Deeds Office for registration. These documents will be individually captured on the system. If there is a bond, the conveyancer dealing with the bond will lodge the bond documents with the Deeds Office at the same time as the transfer documents. The transfer, bond and cancellation documents must be lodged in the Deeds Office at the same time to ensure simultaneous registration. If different conveyancers are dealing with registering the purchaser’s bond and cancelling the seller’s bond, then they will need to collaborate.
  2. The Deeds Office examiners go through the documentation that has been submitted, and make sure that it complies with the relevant laws and legislations.
  3. The examiners then inform the conveyancer that the deeds are ready to be registered.
  4. Registration takes place with the conveyancer and Registrar of Deeds present. The transfer of the property is then registered in the purchaser’s name. If there is a bond, it is registered at the same time.
  5. Upon registration, the purchaser becomes the lawful owner of the property. The title deed that reflects this ownership is given to the conveyancer by the deeds office after the registration. Unless a bond has been registered as well, in which case the title deed is given to the bond holder.

The time taken to register a property at the Deeds Office depends on various factors and a number of parties. On average, registering a property transfer takes six to eight weeks, although unforeseen difficulties can cause the period to be extended.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

RENOVATING YOUR HOUSE

RENOVATING YOUR HOUSE

a1_a_2Gerald and Francis have been living in their dream home for the past 10 years.  In the last few months they noticed that the bathroom and kitchen are starting to look a bit dated and they would love some ekstra space for the children.

With great excitement they decided to update the bathroom and kitchen and close the stoep area to be used as a family room.

They were very surprised when friends reminded them that they should submit building plans for the stoep before the building work commence.  Surely building plans are not necessary, after all, the foundation, as well as two walls, are already in place?

It is important to remember that there are both national regulations, as well as municipality by laws to be taken into consideration.

The City of Cape Town for example require approved building plans for any structure, regardless if it is of a temporary or permanent nature, including alterations or extensions to an existing structure, except for buildings which is less than 5m2, a wire fence or open-side fabric shelter for a car, boat or caravan.  The plans must be drawn by an architect, technologist or draughtsperson who is registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession.

Furthermore, the City of Cape Town require building work to commence within 1 year from approval of the building plans and upon completion of the building work, a request should be submitted for the issuing of an occupancy certificate.

Before any building work commence, it is very important to contact your local authority and to establish what their requirements are regarding building plans, the submission thereof, as well as among other things their requirements regarding room dimensions, heights, natural lighting and ventilation, as well as the time frame in which building work should be completed, the inspections to be done and the occupation certificate to be issued.  Also, should your property be located in a Heritage area or be defined as a Heritage building, different guidelines will apply to keep in line with the architectural style and history of the area.

It may seem inviting to proceed with building work without approved plans, who will find out?  A building inspector can order you to stop with any further building until the plans are approved.  Failure to adhere thereto, may lead to a fine or even a court order to demolish the unapproved structure.

When planning an extension to an existing house, keep in mind that your property’s Title Deed may also have restrictive conditions limiting the distance to the boundaries of the erf where you are allowed to build, for example “No building or structure or any portion thereof except boundary walls and fences, shall … be erected nearer than 6,30 metres to the street line …, nor within 3,15 metres of the rear or 1,57 metres of the lateral boundary …”

Also, keep in mind, when you sell your property in future, the purchasers are likely to request copies of the approved building plans as a condition of the sale.  Should the plans not be up to date, it will be your responsibility to provide updated approved plans.  It is possible that an “illegal” / unapproved structure, which could be the very thing that attracted potential buyers in the first place, have to be demolished for the plans to be approved.  It is never advisable to make any changes to your property without consulting experts in the field as well as your local authority.

Renovating your property can be a very exciting project, ensure that you do your homework and know what is required from you.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

 

DIFFERENT TYPES OF WILLS

DIFFERENT TYPES OF WILLS

A3_AWhere parties are married to each other in community of property, the legal effect of such a marriage is that all the assets and liabilities owned by each party prior to the marriage, or acquired by them during the course of the marriage, will form part of a communal or joint estate of the two spouses.  This means that all assets acquired during the course of the marriage, will be owned by them in equal, undivided shares.  In most instances spouses married in community of property to each other execute a joint Will, which is a single Will (a single legal document) prepared and signed by both the spouses in terms of which all their assets and property are bequeathed according to their wishes.

The fact that only one Will is executed does not necessarily mean that the Testator and the Testatrix are jointly deciding on how their assets should be divided upon their deaths, eventhough the parties are married to each other in community of property.  The law recognizes each Testator’s right to dispose of his/her assets as each party deems fit.  As such, each party will decide how his/her estate is to be divided upon their deaths separate from each other, although their wishes are contained in one single Will.

If parties are married out of community of property and also decide to execute a joint Will, the drafter of the Will needs to ensure that the Will reflects whether it is two separate Wills contained in one document, or whether the massing of the separate estates of the parties (as referred to below), will take place.  Said joint Will also needs to prescribe what will happen if the husband and wife should die simultaneously, or within a short period of time (ie. 30 days) from each other.

Each party retains the right to amend the joint Will without the consent of the other Testator.  Each party also has the right to draft a new Will at any given point in time, without having the obligation of informing the other Testator thereof.  Should the joint Will be the last Will of the deceased, said Will will be valid in respect of that deceased irrespective of the fact that the surviving spouse executed another Will subsequent to the signature of the joint Will.

Although a joint Will is a common phenomenon amongst married couples, caution must be taken when drafting same as the parties’ assets, liabilities and their separate needs for the division of their assets upon death needs to be taken into account when one considers whether a joint Will is the answer to the parties’ needs.   Lastmentioned is critical, especially in light of the fact that a joint Will might result in negative financial and tax implications for one or both of the parties.

Parties can also execute one Will in terms of which it is decided that the massing of their separate estates, or the massing of the joint estate needs to take place.  Massing of estates takes place when the estate of two persons is massed into one estate upon the death of the first of them, for the purpose of dealing with a communal asset of both the parties.  Even if massing took place, the surviving spouse has the right to either accept or to refuse the joint Will and the massing of the estate assets upon the death of the first of the Testators.  This leaves the door open for the surviving spouse to walk away from the joint Will if he/she refuses to accept the terms of the joint Will upon death of the first Testator.  Even the acceptance or refusal of a Will in which a massed estate is created, can have a variety of tax implications and as such, caution is advised when the execution of such a Will is being considered.

Nothing however prevents married couples to each execute a Will in their own names in terms of which their exact wishes as to the division of their respective estates are stipulated.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)