Are there limitations on ownership rights?

corien newsletter depiction.inddIt is a recognised principle of property law that ownership does not confer absolute and unlimited entitlement on the owner, but that various limitations exist in the interest of the community and for the benefit of other people.

The most important limitation on the owner in the interest of the community as a whole is the payment of taxes to the state in respect of certain movable and immovable property. In the case of immovable property several measures make land available to a larger section of the community, which implies that the restitution of land rights and the provision of land will require measures for expropriation. Furthermore, a number of provisions deal with environmental conservation and physical planning which limit the owner’s entitlement in the interest of the community. Limiting measures in the case of moveable property prohibit the use of such property to the detriment of the community, for instance motor vehicles, fire-arms and dependence-producing substances.

There are also measures which limit the owner’s entitlement, not in the interest of the community, but in the interest of other individuals. The best known example in this case is neighbour law, which implies that the owner may not use his land in such a way that it constitutes an unreasonable burden on his neighbours. The criterion of reasonableness determines that, in these circumstances, the owner of immovable property may exercise his entitlements within reasonable bounds, and that the neighbouring owner or occupier must tolerate the owner’s exercise of his entitlements within reasonable bounds.

Other examples of the application of the criterion of reasonableness in the case of neighbour law are the obligation to lateral and surface support, measures dealing with encroachments, the mutual obligation regarding the natural flow of water and the elimination of danger.

Other people besides the owner may acquire entitlements (for instance use rights) in respect of the moveable or immovable property of the owner. Holders of limited real rights acquire entitlements in respect of the asset, which limits the owner’s ownership (dominium) as they burden the property. It is therefore enforceable against the owner and his successors in title. Certain creditors’ rights may also result in people acquiring entitlements in respect of the owner’s property. These rights are, however, only enforceable against the owner personally and do not burden the property as such, therefore it is not enforceable against successors in title.

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 is a tenant an illegal occupant?

corien newsletter depiction.inddWhere the Contract of Lease is breached in any way by the tenant and he or she after receiving notice thereof has not remedied such a breach within the period agreed upon, then the landlord may cancel the contract. The tenant will be found to be an illegal occupier in this instance.

Where a tenant fails to perform as agreed upon in his Lease agreement, he will be found to be in breach of that agreement. An example of this is a failure to pay rent timeously or at all. The landlord must notify the tenant in writing of his decision to terminate the contract by means of a letter of cancellation, allowing the tenant a reasonable period, or such timeframe as agreed upon in terms of such a lease, to vacate the property.

If the tenant chooses to ignore the notice of cancellation of the lease agreement by remaining on the property and continuing to use and enjoy it, the tenant will be regarded as an illegal occupier of the property. The same applies if the tenant continues to occupy the property after the expiration of the initial lease period. An illegal occupier may be evicted from the rented property by the landlord or owner. This will be done at a Magistrate’s or High Court and for that the services of a lawyer will be required.

There is no longer a Common Law right to evict someone. Instead the owner or landlord must follow the procedures and provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of land Act 19 of 1998 (hereinafter referred to as the “PIE Act”). The tenant must be notified of the pending action, by means of a Notice of Intention to Evict and this must be done at least 14 days before the date of the court hearing. This notice must also be sent to the respective Municipality involved.

On the date of the hearing, the court will consider factors such as whether the person is an unlawful occupier, whether the owner has reasonable grounds for eviction and alternative accommodation available to the tenant. It is now considered a criminal offence to evict someone without a court order to that effect. Constructive eviction, for instance, where a landlord cuts the water or electricity supply to the property in order to “drive” the tenants out, is a criminal offence.

The type of action or application that your legal representative will bring will vary depending on the facts and circumstances of the matter. Such actions or applications can be heard in the Magistrate’s or High Court, depending on the value of the occupation and not the leased property value. The lease agreement may also have a clause embodied in it where the parties agree to a particular court’s jurisdiction, where upon that will be followed. If the court proceedings are successful a Warrant of Ejectment may be issued, whereupon the owner or landlord may proceed with the eviction of the illegal occupier.

Once the owner or the proprietor of the leased property has followed all the prescribed procedures as laid out in the PIE Act and they have established that their tenant is considered an unlawful occupier then they may proceed with the above-mentioned steps in order to evict them from their property.

An unlawful occupier may be removed from the premises upon the instruction of an Eviction Order / Warrant of Eviction with the assistance of the Sheriff of the respective court at a minimal fee. The steps laid out in the PIE Act are simple to understand and follow allowing a transparent and fair chance to both the landlord and the tenant in these difficult situations.

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 is meant by real security?

corien newsletter depiction.inddReal security means that, on the basis of a creditor’s right against the debtor (principal debt), a creditor acquires a limited real right in the property of the debtor as security for the payment of the creditor’s right (principal debt) by the debtor. Real security differs from personal security in that a creditor does not acquire a limited real right in the property of the debtor in the case of personal security, but only acquires a creditor’s right against a third party as security for the payment of the principal debt by the debtor. Such a third party is normally surety of the debtor.

A requirement for real security is the existence of a valid and enforceable principal debt. The real security is accessory to the principal debt, in other words the real security is terminated automatically if the principal debt is paid in full.

If the object of security is moveable property, real security can be in the form of either pledge or notarial bond. In the case of pledge the object of pledge (corporeal or incorporeal moveable property) must be delivered by the pledgor (debtor) to the pledgee (creditor). Physical control of the pledge object is a requirement for the establishment and continuation of a limited real security right to the security object. The pledgee has the obligation to maintain the pledged property within reason and, on termination, to return the property to the pledgor. A notarial bond can be registered in respect of specified, corporeal moveable property of the debtor (mortgagor) in favour of the creditor (mortgagee) in the deeds registry. After registration of this bond, the mortgagee acquires a limited real right to the encumbered property without delivery thereof to the mortgagee.

Immoveable property of the debtor serves as the object of security in that a mortgage is granted by the debtor (mortgagor) to the creditor (mortgagee) and registered in the deeds registry. A mortgage is a liquid document which grants the mortgagee a limited real right in respect of the immoveable property of the mortgagee without the physical control of the property being passed to the mortgagee. More than one mortgage can be registered over the same immoveable property at the same time. Priority is given, in this case, to mortgagees in the order that the mortgages were registered (prior in tempore, prior in iure).

The pledge of the mortgagee (creditor) can, if the principal debt is not paid in full by the mortgagor or pledgor (debtor), have the security object sold in execution and is entitled to the proceeds of the sale in execution for payment of the principal debt. In the case of insolvency of the pledgor or mortgagor, the pledge or mortgagee acquires a preferent claim to the proceeds of the sale of the security object.

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.

What does a suspensive condition in a contract really mean?

corien newsletter depiction.inddMost people that have bought a property may have noticed a clause dealing with suspensive conditions in the contract of sale. Usually these conditions relate to deposits that need to be paid, financing that has to be procured and/or another property that needs to be sold before the sale can be confirmed. The interpretation appears straightforward enough – meet the requirements, and the contract is valid; fail to meet the requirements and the contract is invalid. But is it really that straightforward? And what are the consequences of non-compliance?

In layman’s terms a condition contained in a contract can be described as a provision that defers the obligation(s) of a party in the contract to the occurrence of some future uncertain event. This is usually termed a ‘suspensive condition’ or a ‘condition precedent’.

Legally a suspensive condition can be described as a condition, which suspends the operation or effect of one, or some, or all, of the obligations under a contract until the condition is fulfilled. If the condition is not fulfilled then no contract comes into existence. Once the condition is fulfilled, the contract and the mutual rights of the parties relate back to, and are deemed to have been in force from, the date of the signature of the agreement and not the date of the fulfilment of the condition.

The Supreme Court of Appeal recently confirmed that where a suspensive condition is not fulfilled timeously it lapses and the parties are not bound by it, even though one party has performed fully.

In the matter of Africast (Pty) Limited v Pangbourne Properties Limited the parties concluded a contract for the development of commercial property in an area in Gauteng. One of the suspensive conditions in the contract was that Pangbourne’s board of directors had to approve the contract and written approval had to be presented to Africast within seven working days from the date of conclusion of the contract. The contract was signed on 11 April 2007 and Pangbourne’s board of directors approved the contract on 20 April 2007, however the written approval was only provided on 25 April 2007 to Africast, which was after the required seven-day period. Pangbourne decided after 18 months that since the suspensive condition had not been met within the stipulated period, it was not bound by the contract and refused to deliver the required guarantees. At that stage buildings had already been constructed by Africast in terms of the agreement.

The Court confirmed Pangbourne’s view that since the suspensive condition in the contract had not been fulfilled timeously no contract had come into existence and that the contract had lapsed due to non-fulfilment of the suspensive condition. The Court came to this conclusion notwithstanding the fact that both parties had performed in terms of the agreement for some 18 months.

The most common appearance of suspensive conditions is in contracts involving the sale of immovable property such as a house, flat, plot, or farm. The conditions that are generally encountered in the contract of sale is that the sale is subject to the purchaser obtaining a bond from a financial institution and/or that the sale is subject to the purchaser selling his existing property within a certain period.

It is important to bear in mind that suspensive conditions are usually inserted in a contract for the benefit of one of the parties to the contract. In the abovementioned scenario, the suspensive conditions are included for the protection of the purchaser. Should the purchaser fail to obtain a bond and/or sell his existing property within the required period, the contract would not have any force or effect and the purchaser will not be bound to the terms and conditions of the contract. Non-fulfilment of a suspensive condition renders the contract void and should the parties still wish to continue with the sale, a new contract of sale must be concluded.

If a suspensive condition is included for the benefit of a particular party to a contract, such suspensive condition can be waived at any time prior to the lapsing of the time for the fulfilment of the suspensive condition by the party for whose benefit the condition was included. Having regard to the scenarios mentioned above, the purchaser may accordingly at any time before the lapsing of the period of the suspensive condition, inform the seller that he waives the suspensive condition and the contract is no longer subject thereto. This will then make the contract unconditional and the purchaser and seller will be bound to the terms of the contract.

It is always prudent to tread carefully when entering into a contract that is subject to a suspensive condition. Be aware of the stipulated periods for compliance, for whose benefit the conditions are inserted and the requirements to prove compliance. If necessary, ensure you seek legal advice before you sign the contract and obtain advice before you waive any conditions that have been inserted for your benefit.

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.