When does prescription of a debt start?

Debt does not last forever, after a period of time it prescribes and becomes invalid. Prescribed debt can be explained as old debt that has not been acknowledged over a period of three years. This means that a debt prescribes if:

  • You have not acknowledged the debt in the past three consecutive years, either in writing or verbally.
  • You have not been summonsed to make a payment by a creditor for the debt within the past three consecutive years.

Trinity Asset Management (Pty) Limited v Grindstone Investments 132 (Pty) Limited

On 5 September 2017, the Constitutional Court handed down a judgment in an appeal against the judgment and order of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) against Trinity Asset Management (Pty) Ltd (Trinity). The SCA ruled that Trinity’s claim for repayment of a debt of some R4.55 million against Grindstone Investments 132 (Pty) Ltd (Grindstone) was unenforceable because it had prescribed.

The parties entered into a written loan agreement, effective from 1 September 2007, in terms of which Grindstone borrowed a capital amount of R3 050 000 (loan capital) from Trinity. Clause 2.3 of the loan agreement provided that the loan capital was due and repayable to the applicant within 30 days from the date of delivery of Trinity’s written demand.

The majority judgment found that, on a holistic reading of the loan agreement, the parties did not intend to delay when the debt would become due or when prescription would begin to run. The parties’ language in the contract did not signify an intention to delay. The parties simply meant to allow Grindstone 30 days to repay the debt once Trinity had issued demand, not to postpone the due date of the debt to an indeterminate future date. The debt thus became due, and prescription began to run, immediately on conclusion of the contract.

Grindstone therefore raised a valid prescription defence, and the appeal was dismissed.

Conclusion

If you are uncertain about a debt amount or require assistance in this regard, then please contact your financial advisor, who will assist you with taking the next steps.

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:

Trinity Asset Management (Pty) Limited v Grindstone Investments 132 (Pty) Limited (CCCT248/16) [2017] ZACC 32 (5 September 2017)

www.debtbusters.co.za/what-is-prescribed-debt/

Municipal debt invalid, the Constitutional Court has ruled

On 23 May 2017, the Constitutional Court heard an application for confirmation of an order of the High Court of South Africa, that declared section 118(3) of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, 2000, constitutionally invalid.

On 29 August, in a ruling majority written by Justice Edwin Cameron, the court found that upon transfer of a property, a new owner is not liable for old municipal debt.

Section 118 of the Municipal Systems Act

Section 118(3) explains that municipal debt on any property is a charge upon that property and enjoys preference over any mortgage bond registered against the property. However, the question was whether this means that, when a new owner buys the property, the property remains with the debts of a previous owner.

What did the court say?

The court ruled that section 118 (3) is “well capable of being interpreted”, so that the historical debt is not transferred to a new owner of the property.

“What is notable about section 118(3) is that the legislature did not require that the charge (historical debt) be either registered or noted on the register of deeds. Textually, there is no indication that the right given to municipalities has a third-party effect (to a new owner)… It (historical debt) stands alone, isolated and unsupported, without foundation or undergirding and with no express words carrying any suggestion that it is transmissible,” the court said in the judgement.

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:

The Constitutional Court of South Africa

“Concourt rules new homeowners not liable for debts of previous owners”, Ray Mahlaka, The Citizen, 29 August 2017. https://citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/1631149/concourt-rules-new-homeowners-not-liable-for-debts-of-previous-owners/

Jordaan and Another v City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality and Others; New Ventures Consulting & Services (Pty) Ltd and Others v City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality and Another; Livanos and Others v Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and Another; Oak Plant Rentals (Pty) Ltd and Others v Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (74195/2013; 13039/2014; 13040/2014; 19552/2015; 23826/2014) [2016] ZAGPPHC 941; [2017] 1 All SA 585 (GP); 2017 (2) SA 295 (GP) (7 November 2016)

When does a General Power of Attorney lapse?

By Sisteen Geyser – Director, Estates and Trust Department

If a person who needs to have a legal act done while being unable to attend to it personally, because of illness or being outside the country, for example, such a person (“the principal”) could execute a power of attorney in favour of a third party (“the agent”).  The law on agency applies to this relationship.

The principal must have the necessary contractual capacity for the power of attorney to be valid, and must understand the nature and consequences of granting a power of attorney.  A validly executed power of attorney automatically lapses as soon as the principal is no longer able to perform the acts in question personally.

An adult who does not have full contractual capacity (for example, because of a stroke or extreme old age) requires assistance to make decisions.  Depending on the person’s circumstances, an application should be made to the Master of the High Court for the appointment of an Administrator, or to the Court for the appointment of a Curator Bonis.

Should the principal’s health deteriorate to the point of not being able to comprehend any acts done on their behalf in terms of the Power of Attorney, the family should consider appointing an Administrator or Curator to manage their affairs.

Should you have queries about the validity of a Power of Attorney or need guidance on whether a person needs assistance to manage their affairs, please contact our Estate and Trust Department.

Should you have queries about the validity of a Power of Attorney or need guidance on whether a person needs assistance to manage their affairs, please contact our Estate and Trust Department.

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)