HOW TO EVICT AN ILLEGAL TENANT

Landlords who have tenants that they believe are occupying their premises illegally may not forcefully remove such tenants. The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (No. 19 of 1998) provides for the prohibition of unlawful eviction and also provides proper procedures for the eviction of unlawful occupiers.

According to the Act:

l no one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property;

l no one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances;

l it is desirable that the law should regulate the eviction of unlawful occupiers from land in a fair manner, while recognising the right of land owners to apply to a court for an eviction order in appropriate circumstances;

l special consideration should be given to the rights of the elderly, children, disabled persons and particularly households headed by women, and that it should be recognised that the needs of those groups should be considered;

Procedure regarding evictions in terms of the PIE Act:

  1. According to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), to cancel a fixed-term lease you must give the tenant at least 20 business days’ notice to rectify a material breach of the lease, failing which the lease will be cancelled.
  2. After 21 days, you can send the tenant a letter to cancel the lease. The letter should state that the tenant is now deemed to be occupying the property unlawfully and that he or she must vacate the premises by a specific date.
  3. If the tenant/occupier has not left the premises by the date mentioned in the letter of cancellation, then your lawyer can lodge an eviction application, which includes seeking the court’s permission to serve a notice of motion on the occupier.

References:

  • Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (No. 19 of 1998), South Africa
  • “How to evict a tenant (lawfully)”, Mark Bechard, Personal Finance, IOL. https://www.iol.co.za/personal-finance/how-to-evict-a-tenant-lawfully-2059984

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)

FEARING FORECLOSURE: WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS AS THE HOMEOWNER?

The recent junk status announcement has shaken us into a quick action of tightening our belts and letting go of luxuries to afford our day to day expenses. This financial condition inhibits the possibility of purchasing a new house, let alone affording your current home. Have you thought about what you would do if your foreclosure wiped its shoes on your doormat?

You have the option to sell

Selling, rather than waiting for foreclosure, offers a greater possibility of you receiving greater value for your home. You may choose to sell privately or through an estate agent. It is advisable that your qualified conveyancing attorney be notified of any concerns, as well as any interests of potential buyers. During this time, look for alternative home solutions, and consider a suitable transfer date.

  • Prior to the signing of the agreement of sale and the transfer of ownership, the property still belongs to you.

You have time

Before receiving a foreclosure notice, the bank allows a grace period for you to catch up on your bond instalments. It may be difficult to do so, considering your finances have already been tightrope walking over the past few months. Meeting with your bank allows the opportunity for a payment restructure to be discussed and agreed upon.

  • The repossession procedure is paused during the time you are in application of or in debt review. The National Credit Act allows this opportunity.

Approach your lawyer

If, after attempting to recover payments, you receive foreclosure summons, contact your lawyer. As stated by section 26(3) of the South African Constitution, your eviction may not be finalised without an official court order. The courts consider all relevant circumstances before reaching a final eviction decision.

  • You may not be arbitrarily removed from your home.

You won’t be homeless

You have the right to adequate housing, despite your previous or current economic standing. Adequacy is determined by a place to eat, shelter, a place to sleep, and a place to raise a family, and this accessibility is the responsibility of the state. Following the outcome of the sale by the bank, the home is no longer in your ownership, and the state classifies you as an unlawful occupier.

  • The eviction process will then follow that of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act.

References:

  • National Credit Act
  • Constitution of the Republic of South Africa [1996]
  • Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act [No. 19 of 1996]

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?

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.

References:

  • 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

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)

DO I NEED A COHABITATION CONTRACT WITH MY PARTNER?

Cohabitation is a relationship between two people who choose to live together in a monogamous and stable environment. Couples who decide on cohabitation could do so, prior to getting married, as an alternative to marriage, or while they are still in the process of divorce and are already living with their new partner.

The differences between marriage and cohabitation are as follows:

  1. No legal protection if/when the partnership ends.
  2. Claiming maintenance after a separation could be more difficult/impossible.
  3. No court is required to end the relationship.
  4. Partners won’t necessarily inherit from each other.
  5. Cohabitants cannot insure each other’s property.

What happens if there is no written cohabitation agreement?

  • If there is no agreement on the dissolution of a relationship, a person is only entitled to retain the property which s/he has purchased and owns.
  • The couple would be entitled to share in the property proportionately in terms of the contribution which they have made to the relationship. Each person will need to prove what property they have acquired together in order to get back what they are entitled to.
  • If a dispute arises, a court may be approached for assistance.

How are couples protected in cohabitation?

  • In order to protect the couple in cohabitation, rights and obligations of the couple can be protected by way of entering into a cohabitation agreement. The agreement regulates the relationship during its existence and after it has come to an end.
  • A cohabitation agreement can be entered into verbally or in writing. It is recommended that such an agreement be concluded in writing and signed.
  • The agreement can be concluded at any time during the relationship.

A cohabitation contract

If two partners have decided to live together it would be beneficial to have a contract drawn up. These are some elements the contract could contain:

  1. Household expenses: Who is responsible for paying what and from whose account?
  2. Joint property: If you want joint assets rather than separate assets.
  3. Joint home: If you want a home to be registered in both names of the partners, however, the partners don’t have to have equal shares in the property.
  4. End of relationship: Deciding what will happen with each other’s assets after the relationship ends and whether or not one partner will be able to receive maintenance from the other.
  5. Children: If there’s a child, the parental rights and responsibilities should be set out, but this has to be done with legal advice first and should be registered.

Conclusion

Cohabitation can be successful in and of itself, but without a contract, there are no ‘safety nets’. This could prove a mistake in relationships where property or a child is involved.

Reference:

  • Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

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)

CO-OWNING PROPERTY WITH SOMEONE ELSE: THE UPS AND DOWNS

What is co-ownership?

Co-ownership is when one or more people jointly own the same property. In essence, it is when they legally share ownership without dividing the property into physical portions for their exclusive use. It is thus commonly referred to as co-ownership in undivided shares.

It is possible to agree that owners acquire the property in different shares; for instance, one person owns 70 percent and the other 30 percent of the single property. The different shares can be recorded and registered in the title deeds by the Deeds Office.

The benefits

On paper, it’s a great idea. For starters, the bond repayments and costs of maintaining the home are halved. However, there can be problems and although not every friendship or relationship is destined to disintegrate, there does often come a time when one of the parties involved wants to sell up and move on to bigger and better things.

The risks

If ownership is given to one or more purchasers, without stipulating in what shares they acquire the property, it is legally presumed that they acquired the property in equal shares.

The risks, the benefits and the obligations that flow from the property are shared in proportion to each person’s share of ownership in the property. For instance, one of the co-owners fails to contribute his share of the finances as initially agreed, resulting in creditors such as the bank or Body Corporate taking action to recover the shortfall.

Having an agreement

If two people own property together in undivided shares it is advisable to enter into an agreement which will regulate their rights and obligations if they should decide to go their own separate ways.

The practical difficulties that flow from the rights and duties of co-ownership are captured by the expression communio est mater rixarum or “co-ownership is the mother of disputes”. It is therefore important that, when the agreement the co-owners entered into does not help them solve disputes, certain remedies are available to them.

The agreement should address the following issues:

  1. In what proportion will the property be shared?
  2. Who has the sole right to occupy the property?
  3. Who will contribute what initial payments to acquire the property.
  4. Who will contribute what amounts to the ongoing future costs and finances.
  5. How the profits or losses will be split, should the property or a share be sold?
  6. The sale of one party’s share must be restricted or regulated.
  7. The right to draw funds out of the access bond must be regulated.
  8. A breakdown of the relationship between the parties.
  9. Death or incapacity of one of the parties.
  10. Dispute resolution options before issuing summons.
  11. Termination of the agreement.

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)

WHAT DOES THE DEEDS OFFICE DO?

The 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)

IS MY TENANT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WORN OUT CARPET?

There are several damages a landlord can deduct from a tenant’s deposit. However, there are certain household items that will experience normal wear and tear over time. This is referred to as “fair wear and tear”.

Fair wear and tear is seen as damage or loss to an item at the property which happens as a result of ordinary use and exposure over time.

According to the Rental Housing Act, a landlord is free to claim compensation for damage to the property caused by the tenant, except for fair wear and tear.

It’s important to remember that the original condition and age of the item at commencement of the lease agreement needs to be taken into account, and therefore cost of depreciation of the item due to normal wear. Paint fades, doors and walls get scuffed with use, and everything wears or breaks over time, even with a tenant who really cares for the property, and one can’t hold a tenant liable for this.

If a tenant or landlord has a problem, they can go to the Rental Housing Tribunal to resolve it.

The Rental Housing Tribunal

The Rental Housing Tribunal is a useful resource for both landlords and tenants who are dealing with rental property disputes in different forms. Cases that the Rental Housing Tribunal deals with include:

  1. Tenants defaulting on their rent
  2. Failure to repay a deposit
  3. Invasion of a tenant’s privacy
  4. Overcrowding of a rental property
  5. Determining a fair rental amount
  6. Illegal seizing of a tenant’s property
  7. Discrimination against a prospective tenant
  8. A receipt for rent not being issued
  9. Unacceptable behaviour by a tenant
  10. Lack of maintenance and repairs to the property
  11. Illegally refuse a tenant access to the property or interrupt services
  12. Unacceptable living conditions

A general rule of thumb is that, if a tenant has damaged something that does not normally wear out, or the tenant has substantially shortened the life of something that does wear out, the tenant may be charged the prorated cost of the item. The landlord should take into account how old the item was and how long it may have lasted otherwise, as well as the cost of replacement.

Conclusion

Ordinary wear and tear to carpets should not count against the tenant, however large rips or stains would be considered damage. Any deduction for the tenant’s deposit should take into account the age of the carpets, compared with the expected total time of usage.

Reference list:

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)

SUSPENSIVE CONDITIONS IN A DEED OF SALE: KNOW YOUR OBLIGATIONS

Imagine signing a deed of sale for your dream house and later discovering that the contract lapsed because you obtained bond approval one day too late. The situation could be worsened if the Seller receives a better offer for the house and accepts that better offer.

If a deed of sale is made subject to a suspensive condition, it will lapse if such condition is not fulfilled in time. This was confirmed in the case of Marais v Kovacs Investments 724 (Pty) Ltd [2009] 1 All SA 174 (C) (hereinafter referred to as “the Marais case”). There is then no contract for the sale of the property between the two parties and the Seller can sell the property to another purchaser.

Examples of suspensive conditions are obtaining bond approval before a certain date, or the sale of the Purchaser’s current property before a certain date. It is very important for both the Seller and Purchaser to take note of the wording of these conditions and ensure that they understand them.

The following is an example of the wording of a suspensive condition relating to a bond, also sometimes referred to as a “bond condition”:

This Deed of Sale is subject to the Purchaser obtaining bond approval from a financial institution for the amount of R1 500 000 before 2 December 2013, failing which this agreement will lapse.

In the above example, if only R1 400 000 is approved before 2 December 2013, in other words R100 000 less than the required amount, then the condition is not met and the contract will lapse. Similarly, if a bond is approved for R1 500 000 but only on 5 December 2013, then the condition is not met in time and the contract will lapse, as was decided in the case of Meyer v Barnardo and another 1984 (2) SA 580 (N).

The parties can however agree to extend the time during which the suspensive condition must be fulfilled. Such extension must be in writing and signed by both the Seller and Purchaser as per the requirements of the Alienation of Land Act 68 of 1981. It must also be done before the time limit of the suspensive condition expires. In the above “bond condition” clause example, this would mean that the parties would have to sign the extension before 2 December 2013 to prevent the Deed of Sale from lapsing. In the Marais case the court held that even if the suspensive condition had been inserted in the contract for the exclusive benefit of the Purchaser, the Purchaser would have had to communicate his intention to waive the requirement before it lapsed.

In the Marais case the parties entered into a written agreement of sale with a suspensive condition that a bond in the amount of R10 149 072 needed to be obtained by 15 August 2005. The Purchaser, however, only obtained a mortgage bond in the amount of R9 650 000, which was granted on 2 August 2005. The respondent’s attorneys argued that the suspensive condition had been substantially fulfilled because the shortfall was, in their opinion, only a “minor shortfall” and therefore an insignificant amount compared to the purchase price. The court did not agree with this and found that it could not be said that the parties intended the suspensive condition to be fulfilled in any way other than what was expressly stipulated in the Deed of Sale. The court found that the contract had therefore lapsed.

If a suspensive condition will not be fulfilled in time, rather take the necessary precautions beforehand to avoid a lapsed Deed of Sale. We advise that you contact a professional for advice in this regard.

Reference list:

  • Kontraktereg, UNISA 2004
  • Self-Study Conveyancing Course for Attorneys, Gawie le Roux, 2013
  • Alienation of Land Act 68 of 1981
  • Marais v Kovacs Investments 724 (Pty) Ltd [2009] 1 All SA 174 (C)
  • Meyer v Barnardo and another 1984 (2) SA 580 (N)

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)

MY NEIGHBOUR’S NOISE IS A NUISANCE

So it’s the third night this week you can’t sleep because your new neighbour seems to enjoy playing loud rock music with his band late at night. Normally you wouldn’t mind. However, being kept up till 2am every morning is affecting your productivity at work. You talk with your neighbour, but he doesn’t seem to see a problem. What now?

If a neighbour has a birthday party or is celebrating the festive season, then their behaviour would be considered reasonable. However, if the behaviour of a neighbour has become disruptive or abnormal to the extent that it affects your ability to enjoy your property, then the law supports your concern.

What does the law say about loud neighbours?

There are Noise Control Regulations under the Environment Conservation Act (Act 73 1989). These regulations clearly state that no person (including your neighbour) is allowed to:

Operate or play a radio, television, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier, loud speaker system or similar device that produces, reproduces or amplifies sound, or allow it to be operated or played so as to cause a noise nuisance.

The regulations also give local authorities (i.e. your municipality) the ability to enter premises without prior notice, on condition it’s at a reasonable time of the day. This would be to inspect the premises and take any action if necessary.

However, before you run off to sue your neighbour it must first be considered whether or not the noise they are producing is reasonable or unreasonable. If you live in a congested city, for instance, noise pollution is common, but a residential area is expected to be quieter.

What makes your neighbour a nuisance?

There are several factors that determine if a neighbour is a “nuisance”. Some of them include:

  1. Excessive loud noise.
  2. Bad odours.
  3. Constant movement of inhabitants.
  4. Smoke, gas or fumes.

However, as mentioned earlier, it’s important to recognise the circumstance of the noise or disruption. Living in a residential area with rowdy neighbours hosting consistently late parties could be considered a nuisance. When judging the actions of your neighbour you should consider the following:

  1. Whether it is temporary or over a long period.
  2. Where the property is situated.

If it’s the festive season, then a lot of festive music and many guests is considered normal. In circumstances such as that it may just be better for you to let it go and wait for the festive season to pass. Being overly sensitive and irritable is not a reason to sue someone.

What can you do?

The first step of any neighbourly dispute should be to approach your neighbour and ask them to stop what’s causing the nuisance, such as telling them to turn down the music. Matters that can’t be resolved peacefully can be brought to a court and an interdict can be obtained against the neighbour.  Legal advice is always beneficial when pursuing legal action so as to determine whether your complaint is valid or whether you’re just too sensitive.

An interdict is a court order that will command the neighbour to stop doing whatever is the cause of the nuisance. The nuisance causing neighbour can also be sued for any damages caused from the nuisance, such as broken property or health problems.

Reference:

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

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)

TROUBLE WITH THE NEIGHBOURS

You and your neighbour have been good friends for years; your children have grown up together and you have always thought of him as a reasonable man, but lately you’re not so sure. His trees’ branches overhang into your property, blocking your gutters with leaves, not to mention the root system creeping closer to your home’s foundation. When you confront him, he flatly refuses to do anything about it, since they are, after all, trees he and his wife planted when they bought the property 30 years ago!

The question in everyone’s mind is, what can I do about my neighbour’s trees and plants that are causing damage to my property and discomfort to me? He most certainly has the right to do on his property as he pleases, but what about my right to use and enjoy my property? Surely his enjoyment cannot be at the cost of someone else?

Trees with lateral root systems are often a culprit in neighbourly disputes. In the case Bingham v City Council of Johannesburg 1934 WLD 180, the municipality planted trees along the footpath for beautification purposes. The problem was that they chose to plant oak trees, which have strong lateral root systems that drain the soil surrounding them. The flowers and shrubs in Bingham’s garden died as a result of this, and even worse, the strong root system was making its way to the foundation of his home. Due to the threat to the property (the house) the court ordered the municipality to remove the trees.

In Vogel v Crewe and another [2004] 1 All SA 587 (T) the issue regarding roots was also discussed in court.  Vogel and Crewe were neighbours and Crewe was of the opinion that a tree planted about two metres from the wall, separating the two properties, was the cause of all the problems on his property. According to him the tree’s root system was causing damage to the boundary wall and leaves from the tree were falling into his swimming pool and blocking his gutters and sewage system. The court’s approach was based on an objective test of reasonableness. They took into account the benefits of protecting the tree, being its visual pleasure, shade, and the oxygen it produced, as opposed to the trouble it was causing Crewe. Crewe was not able to prove that the problem with the leaves in his swimming pool, gutters and sewage system was caused by the tree in question, and the court found that the wall separating the two properties could easily be repaired. No drastic action, like removing the tree, was necessary and Crewe failed in his application.

From the above it is clear that the court will only order the removal of a tree should the roots pose a real and immediate threat of damaging the property. They will not order the removal of overhanging branches for the shedding of leaves.

In Malherbe v Ceres Municipality 1951 (4) SA 510 A it was confirmed that should a neighbour’s tree branches overhang or the roots spread into your property and the owner refuses to remove same, you may chop them off on the boundary line.

Hopefully you will be able to resolve tree-related issues with your neighbour in a courteous way, and remember, you also have the right to enjoy your property.

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)