BUYING PROPERTY ONLINE

We all know the hassle of moving, even if it is just around the corner. Due to family reasons, employment opportunities, or university studies, it is not uncommon for people to not only move down the road but also to move to different provinces in South Africa. This is indeed a challenging task, however, technology has made it a lot easier to find the perfect home for you, even if you are nowhere near it.

Here are some tips you can follow if you are planning on buying property in another province and need to find your new home:

  1. Seize the power of social media:

Social media is a quick and efficient way to let your friends and family on social media know about your home search. The more people that know about your planned move, the more chance you have of someone in that area knowing of the perfect fit for you.

  1. Go online:

The first place that you can start your property hunt is online. You can easily gain access to massive amounts of available properties and information from the comfort of your own home.

  1. Virtual tours:

Don’t just look at the photos of the property posted online. A lot of properties have full virtual tours which means that you can take a virtual stroll through the entire property without physically being there. If the property does not have a virtual tour, you can use tools such as Google Maps to view the property and neighbourhood from the outside, giving you a clear indication of whether this neighbourhood is the perfect fit for you.

  1. Visit the area:

Visiting the surrounding area is ideal, but not always possible, especially if the property is far away. However, it is still a good idea to visit the area before moving. When you visit the area, you will have the opportunity to see the area and surrounds in person. You can plan your visit ahead, and schedule your viewings with your estate agent.

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)

HIJACKED BUILDINGS

As an owner of a building, trying to evict the hijackers and their tenants can often be without success.

Hijacked buildings are when the legal owner is deprived of their property, land and possessions by the slumlords. The slumlords impose themselves as the rightful owners, collecting rent and acting as body corporates of the hijacked building. The issue of buildings being occupied without the legal owner’s consent has become a common method for slumlords to generate quick profit. A common case with residential flats and apartments, the value of the building as well as the amenities around it depreciates due to the unkempt nature the building becomes.

Because the legal owners are registered at the municipality as being responsible for bills, taxes and utilities, slumlords have no obligation to meet these payment deadlines as they are not identified as the owners and the owners then obtain large amounts owing to the municipality. Should they have requested for the water and electricity be cut off as a means to not accumulating debt, the property’s occupants would likely become violent, destroying what is left of the building’s conditions.

When the rightful owners approach the illegal owners and occupiers of the property, they are violently threatened, making them unable or fearful to return to claim their property. Because everyone has the right to property and housing, their right cannot be imposed on, even in cases of illegal occupation. Seeking legal advice ensures that you are not breaking the law as the rightful owner. An investigation into locating the slumlords is established, as well as the determination of whether the complainant is the rightful owner of the hijacked property. This opportunity also restores the rights of people who are paying exploitive amounts of rent and ensures that their access to basic needs is met. To restore the condition of the building, the occupiers must be offered alternative accommodation and an order must be granted by the court before an eviction can be conducted. Breach of the said order warrants for the arrest of the unrelenting occupier.

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 TRUSTEES BAN YOUR PET IN A SECTIONAL TITLE SCHEME?

Problems around the ownership of pets are common amongst owners of sectional title properties, but while laws may be imposed by the trustees of the homeowners’ associations, the requirement for a reasonable approach is entrenched in the very laws which govern how a sectional title scheme should be managed.

Where the trustees have reasonably, after following due process and considering all relevant factors, withdrawn their consent to keep a pet, the owner concerned is then not entitled to continue keeping that pet in the scheme.

This is according to the Prescribed conduct rule 1 in Annexure 9 of the Sectional Titles Regulations which deals with the keeping of pets, including reptiles or birds.

It states:

“1. (1) An owner or occupier of a section shall not, without the consent in writing of the trustees, which approval may not unreasonably be withheld, keep any animal, reptile or bird in a section or on the common property.

(2) When granting such approval, the trustees may prescribe any reasonable condition.”

The phrases, “may not unreasonably” and “may prescribe any reasonable”, clearly seek to assist in the creation of harmony amongst a community living side by side in a sectional title development.

These regulations exist to protect the pet owner from unreasonably strict rules, and equally, they must confer on the other owners the right to a nuisance-free and peaceful environment. This means that both parties need to consider each other’s needs.

This consideration, in granting or refusing consent, will be central to inquiry: will it unreasonably interfere with other’s rights to use and enjoy their units; and which conditions would be appropriate in these circumstances to ensure that the risk of nuisance is reduced to a reasonable level?

For this reason, owners or occupiers can only keep pets in a section or on any part of the common property with the written consent of the trustees. However, the trustees cannot unreasonably withhold that permission. An absolute prohibition to keep a pet could be considered unreasonable and if consent to keep a pet is unreasonably withheld, the owner can take the matter to court.

The trustees must furthermore, base their decision on the facts and circumstances of the particular case. The decision to either grant or refuse consent should be recorded in the minutes of the trustee’s meeting, giving reasons that illustrate they have applied their minds to the particular set of facts.

An example of a court case which arose from a dispute regarding permission to keep a pet in a sectional title development was Body Corporate of The Laguna Ridge Scheme No 152/1987 v Dorse 1999 (2) SA 512 (D), in which it was held that the trustees are obliged to individually consider each request for permission to keep a pet, and to base their decision on the facts and circumstances of each particular case.

A further extract from this case pointed out that trustees are not entitled to refuse an application on the basis that they are afraid of creating a precedent. The trustees were, in this case, found to have been grossly unreasonable and have failed to apply their minds when they refused the Applicant permission to keep a small dog.

The question of the reasonableness of the actions of the trustees, in granting or withholding permission and setting conditions, will turn on the nature of the pet concerned and the circumstances of the scheme. In dealing with any application for permission to keep a pet, the trustees should consider what type of pet it is, and whether there are already other similar pets at the scheme.

It is unlikely that any action by the trustees to remove a ‘companion animal’ or ‘service animal’, such as a guide dog owned by a blind or partially sighted owner, would be held to be reasonable in the absence of a clear nuisance caused by the animal. The fact that a person sometimes forms an extremely strong emotional tie with their pet could also be an important consideration when the trustees decide whether or not to grant permission.

The trustees are not, however, powerless in situations where the conditions of permission to keep a pet are not being met. The trustees can withdraw permission if it is reasonable to do so. Examples include if the pet is causing a nuisance to other owners or occupiers (e.g. barking persistently), or the pet is considered dangerous to other owners or occupiers.

Where the trustees have reasonably, after following due process, withdrawn their consent to keep a pet, the owner concerned is then not entitled to continue keeping that pet in the scheme. However, the enforcement of this could be tricky for the trustees. The body corporate is not entitled to forcibly remove a pet from an owner’s possession. This can only be achieved by a court order, if – for example – there are too many dogs being kept in an inadequate space, the trustees can get the assistance from the local SPCA who can be contacted to come to the scheme to do an inspection in loco. If it is justified, they will implement the necessary legal steps to have the dogs removed.

Careful consideration and the application of the principles as set out in the rules of the scheme and the above-mentioned regulations will lead not only to peaceful co-existence, but also healthy growth in property values for the developments implementing such approach. A harmonious board of trustees results in a happy community, which in turn will ensure a good name for any development.

Reference List:

  • Conduct Rule 1 in Annexure 9 of the Sectional Titles Regulations
  • Permission to Keep Pets | Paddocks

https://www.paddocks.co.za/paddocks-press-newsletter/permission-to-keep-pets/

  • Body Corporate of The Laguna Ridge Scheme No 152/1987 v Dorse 1999 (2) SA 512 (D)

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)

BEFORE LEASING, INCLUDE THESE IN THE AGREEMENT

If you consider leasing out your property, it is important not to overlook any requirement and expectations you may have of the incoming tenant. A basic lease agreement should at least have the below stipulated in detail:

  1. Basic information

This includes the details of those who are party to the agreement, the address of the property being leased out, and the lease period.

  1. A deposit and other fees

The purpose of a deposit is to ensure that, should there be any damages to a property due to the tenant’s fault, they could be repaired without the landlord incurring the expenses or waiting for the tenant to pay for said damages. The deposit amount must be stated in the agreement and is payable to the tenant, after damages have been deducted, when the lease agreement has been terminated.

  1. Responsibilities, repairs and maintenance of the premises

Landlords are not able to oversee everything the tenant does, and this is where the responsibility and maintenance clause comes in. If the property’s utilities will be included in the rent, it should be stipulated and not assumed. The general upkeep, such as mowing the lawn or cleaning the pool, must be stated as to whom will be responsible for it. Saying it orally will not suffice because if it is not in writing, it’s easy to challenge it.

  1. Subletting and limits on occupancy

All the adults who will be living on the premises should be party to the agreement; their names, details and signatures must be provided. This allows for the landlord to determine who may live on the property and serves as proof that these are the occupants that he/she has approved.

  1. Rent payment

If this is not on the lease, then living on the property is obviously free. Unless this is intended, the rent payable must be included in the agreement. In addition, details regarding the amount, date to be paid, acceptable payment methods, and repercussions of failing to meet these requirements, must be included.

  1. Termination of lease

The terms that warrant a lease to be terminated must be included in the agreement.

  1. Pets

A landlord cannot just assume that a tenant will not have pets. If pets are allowed, descriptive limitations and restrictions must be included as well.

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)

TIPS FOR RENTING OUT YOUR PROPERTY

Regardless of whether the property you are renting out is a studio apartment, a cottage at the back of the garden or an entire estate, the same rules apply and need to be understood in order to make a success of your investment in the property. To invest in a property is a very big commitment and you don’t want to end up in a situation where you lose on the investment because you didn’t follow all the necessary steps to prevent this from happening.

  1. Handle your tenants constructively

Establish a fair system of setting, collecting, holding, and returning deposits. Inspect and document the condition of your property before the tenant moves in to avoid conflict regarding the refund of deposits. This inspection should preferably be done with the tenant being present.

Try to resolve disputes with your tenants without the involvement of lawyers and lawsuits. If you’re having an argument with a tenant that doesn’t immediately call for an eviction, meet with them and try to resolve the problem in person.

  1. Keep your tenants happy

Keep up to date on maintenance and repairs needed to the property and make sure these are done when the tenants request any work to be done. If your property is not kept in good condition, good tenants will not want to stay on. Remember, your tenants are your customers, make sure they are happy.

Although it is recommended to inspect your property from time to time to check that the condition of your property is up to standard, you must remember that your tenants’ privacy must be respected at the same time. Notify them if you’re planning to inspect the property and make sure to let them know a while in advance.

  1. Make sure the property is safe

Don’t let your tenants and property be easy targets for criminals. If the property needs security additions, take the necessary steps to protect it. Proper lighting, trimming tree branches that hang over the wall and efficient security gates are often all that is needed.

If there is a hazard such as mould due to leaks, your tenants should be informed beforehand and steps should be taken to fix the problem. If your tenants later suffer from health problems that can be linked to the hazard in the property, you might be held responsible.

Conclusion

It is advised to document everything possible regarding the renting of your property – from the rental contract to how you handle complaints. Remember that it is of utmost importance to get insurance for your property. You must protect yourself against possible losses to your rental property caused by anything from vandalism to natural hazards.

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 THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF A PROPERTY BE STOPPED?

The provincial heritage resources authority (PHRA) granted a permit in terms of Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999 for the demolition of a structure that was older than 60 years and situated on a property with no formal heritage status. By doing so, conditions were imposed controlling future development on the property and it was held that such conditions were lawfully imposed.

Gees v the Provincial Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) recently dismissed an appeal against a judgment of the Western Cape High Court. In so doing the SCA held that the large concentration of art deco buildings spanning Davenport Road, Vredehoek, Cape Town, forms part of the national estate and is worthy of protection as a heritage resource.

Therefore, the SCA held that Heritage Western Cape, in granting a permit for the demolition of the appellant’s 60-year-old block of flats, was justified in imposing conditions controlling future development on the property.

It is true that the conditions imposed in the demolition permit amount to a curtailment of the appellant’s entitlement to deal with his property as he sees fit, and may therefore to a certain extent be regarded as a deprivation of property. However, it is widely recognised that in our present constitutional democracy an increased emphasis has been placed upon the characteristic of ownership which requires that entitlements must be exercised in accordance with the social function of law in the interest of the community.

Conclusion

AJ van der Walt and GJ Pienaar in “Introduction to the Law of Property” 7ed (2016), put it as follows:

‘. . . the inherent responsibility of the owner towards the community in the exercise of his entitlements is emphasised. The balance between the protection of ownership and the exercise of entitlements of the owner regarding third parties, on the one hand, and the obligations of the owner to the community, on the other hand, must be maintained throughout. This might, in certain circumstances, even mean that an owner’s entitlements could be limited or infringed upon in the interest of the community. In such cases the infringement must always be reasonable and equitable [not arbitrary].’

Reference:

  • Gees v The Provincial Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport (974/2015) [2015] ZASCA 136 (29 September 2016)

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 I OBTAIN FINANCING IF I DON’T OWN IMMOVABLE PROPERTY AS SECURITY?

The article gives a brief overview of what a notarial bond is, the requirements that need to be complied with to register a notarial bond and give tips regarding clauses that will prove to be useful in a notarial bond. It also deals with the situation where a debtor disposes of an asset listed in a notarial bond, contrary to the provisions thereof.

A very useful way of obtaining financing to start a new business, is to register a notarial bond over the movable property belonging to the business. For instance, notarial bonds are regularly utilised in transport companies – a notarial bond is registered over the vehicles forming the core of the business, but the vehicles do not need to be in the physical possession of the creditor, thus the business can fully operate.

What is a notarial bond?

A notarial bond is a general or special bond where the movable assets of a debtor are used as security for a debt. In terms of the notarial bond, the debtor undertakes to pay his debt towards the creditor, failing which the creditor will be entitled to sell these movable assets and to utilise the proceeds thereof to satisfy his claim against the debtor. There are 2 types of notarial bonds:

  • General notarial bond: all the movable assets on the debtor’s property serves as security for the debtor’s debt.
  • Special notarial bond: specific movable assets identified in the bond will serve as security for the debt.

How does a notarial bond differ from a pledge?

A pledge requires the delivery of the movable asset pledged. A notarial bond does not require the delivery of the movable assets identified in the bond, but in terms of section 1(1) of the Security by Means of Movable Property Act 57 of 1993, the movable property listed in the notarial bond will be deemed to have been pledged to the creditor as effectually as if it had been delivered to the creditor. The fact that the creditor is deemed to be in possession of the property thus places him on equal footing with that of a pledgee. The creditor, upon registration of the notarial bond in the deeds registry, acquires a real right of security in the movable property specified in the bond.

Requirements:

  1. Existence of a principal debt;
  2. Assets which serve as security must be movable, including corporeal and incorporeal assets.

Corporeal assets include furniture, vehicles, the goods of a business, animals and the future offspring of animals and stock in trade.

Incorporeal assets include an unregistered long-term lease of immovable property, a short-term lease of immovable property, a liquor license, a water use license, site permit, shares in a company, goodwill of a business, book debts etc.

What if more than one creditor uses the same asset as security for their debt?

A bond which was registered first enjoys priority over a bond registered thereafter.

Important clause to insert in the bond:

To prevent the debtor from disposing of assets which serve as security in terms of the notarial bond, a clause should be inserted disallowing the debtor to sell, alienate, dispose of, transfer or permit the removal of the asset from the debtor’s place of residence or place where he carries on business, without the prior written consent of the creditor.

What happens if a debtor disposes of the asset identified in the notarial bond, contrary to the stipulations in the notarial bond?

The creditor will be able to apply for provisional sentence summons against the debtor, provided that the notarial deed meets the requirement of being a liquid document. A liquid document is a document which indicates, without having to consult extrinsic evidence, an acknowledgement of debt, of which the amount is easily determinable. A notarial bond will in general qualify as being a liquid document.

A creditor will also be able to claim back an asset which has been sold, contrary to the provisions of the notarial bond, to a bona fide third party, from such third party. The reason for that is the fact that a notarial bond, which has been registered in the Deeds Registry, creates a real right, which is a right that attaches to property, rather than a person.

It is not easy to obtain credit in the economic environment in which our country currently finds itself. However, there are ways to get your business off the ground and registering a notarial bond over the property of your business is a recognised method of securing your business’ debt. If notarial bonds can be utilised more frequently, it can help a lot of new businesses get the financing they need to buy equipment, vehicles and machinery necessary for the operation of the business.

Reference List:

  • Explanatory Notes Part 1: Course in Notarial Practice, compiled by Gawie Le Roux, Erinda Frantzen and Ilse Pretorius
  • The South African Notary, sixth edition, M J Lowe, M O Dale, A De Kock, S L Froneman, A J G Lang

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?

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)

RENTAL RIGHTS DURING THE WATER CRISIS

As a constitutional right, everyone should have access to clean water. Even during a water crisis. In cases where there is a signed agreement between a tenant and landlord pertaining to the supply of water, the obligations stated in the rental agreement should be met by the respective party. Should one of the parties fail to oblige, the agreement may be terminated. Parties to this contract should, however, understand the changes that come with crises.

Common law recognises any crises that could not have been halted or anticipated as “An Act of God”. These are the rights pertaining to rental agreements during a water crisis:

  • Ongoing water supply:

If the municipality reduces water supply, tenant may not cancel lease agreement or claim reduced rental.

  • Services supplied to tenant (swimming pool, sprinklers etc.):

Should day zero come and water supply is cut off, landlords may not continue charging tenants for these services if they are no longer available.

  • Reduced utility charges:

Tenants are within their rights to negotiate that their utilities amount be reduced to account for what the landlord would be paying on their behalf.

  • Municipal bills and fines:

The landlord must pay these to avoid water supply being cut off for the tenant. The landlord may claim that money back from the tenant.

  • Maintenance responsibilities (refilling the pool, watering gardens etc.):

Tenants are exempt from complying with these responsibilities if they contravene with water restrictions.

The water crisis, which has affected mostly the Western Cape, has seen the municipality put restrictions on water usage, cut water supply at certain times of the day, and increase the water rates. Most lease agreements make provision for the responsibility of water usage – the tenant could either be billed monthly, or the rental amount could be water inclusive. If the water bill is the tenant’s responsibility, then they will be liable for the increased water prices. If the rental amount is fixed, any fluctuation in the water bill will be absorbed by the landlord.

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

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)