When is there a cooling-off period after a sale; allowing a purchaser to have second thoughts?

Consumer Protection Act

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) provides for a cooling-off period if a transaction results from direct marketing, allowing a purchaser to get out of a sale agreement. It is often mistakenly thought that this applies to all transactions where the CPA applies. This is not so.

Section 16 of the Consumer Protection Act says:

A consumer may rescind a transaction resulting from any direct marketing without reason or penalty, by notice to the supplier in writing …, within five business days after the later of the date on which

  1. The transaction or agreement was concluded; or
  2. The goods that were the subject of the transaction were delivered to the consumer.

What is direct marketing?

The Act defines direct marketing as follows:

“direct marketing” means to approach a person, either in person or by mail or electronic communication, for the direct or indirect purpose of-

   (a)   promoting or offering to supply, in the ordinary course of business, any goods or services to the person; or

   (b)   requesting the person to make a donation of any kind for any reason;

 This means that if you conclude a transaction for the supply of goods or services in response to an unsolicited offer made to you in person, or by telephone or by email, you can get out of the transaction within five business days.

The “cooling-off” period does not apply to sales that result from any other form of marketing such as conventional print advertising or any transaction concluded when a customer buys goods in a shop.

How can you get out of the transaction?

You can do this by without reason and without having to pay a penalty, by simply giving notice to the supplier in writing, or in another recorded manner and form.

You must give the notice within five business days after the date on which-

(a)   the transaction or agreement was concluded; or

(b)   the goods were delivered;

whichever is the later date.

Cooling-off period when buying certain residential property

Under the Alienation of Land Act, residential property transactions for R 250 000.00 or less are also subject to a “cooling-off” period of five working days. This does not apply to residential properties sold for more than R 250 000.00. This provision remains in place and is not affected by the CPA.

Section 29A of the Alienation of Land Act says that a purchaser may revoke the offer to buy the land or the deed of sale within five days after signing the offer or deed of sale personally or through an authorized agent acting on written authority.

The written notice to revoke must be signed personally or by an authorized agent and must be unconditional.

Where an offer is revoked or deed of sale is terminated within the cooling-off period, every person who received any amount from the purchaser or prospective purchaser in respect of the offer or sale, shall refund the full amount of such payment to the purchaser within ten days of the date on which the notice to revoke was delivered to the seller or his or her agent.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal advice. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

Co-owning property with someone else: the ups and downs

What is co-ownership?

Co-ownership involves that two or more people jointly own the same property, for example land. In essence, 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 property. The shares appear from the title deeds registered in the Deeds Office.

The benefits:

In the case of a residential property, the bond repayments and costs of maintaining the home are halved. However, there can be problems, for example when one of the parties involved wants to sell and move, but the other not.

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.

The 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, and also what happens should they 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 to agree on the respective rights and obligations, including the following matters:

  1. In what proportion will the property be shared?
  2. Who has the right to occupy the property?
  3. Contributions to the initial payment to acquire the property.
  4. Contributions to the ongoing future costs related to the property.
  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 an access bond over the property.
  8. The consequences of a breakdown of the relationship between the parties.
  9. Death or incapacity of one of the parties.
  10. Dispute resolution procedures.
  11. Termination of 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:

Co-ownership of property: what you need to know


http://www.privateproperty.co.za/advice/property/articles/the-pitfalls-of-property-co-ownership/5046
http://www.jgs.co.za/index.php/property/owning-prop-jointly-the-do-s-and-dont-s

Transfer of a property: Is VAT or transfer duty payable?

A purchaser is responsible for payment of transfer cost when acquiring an immovable property, but it should further be established if the transaction is subject to the payment of VAT or transfer duty to SARS.

When an immovable property is transferred, either VAT or transfer duty is payable. To determine whether VAT or transfer duty is payable one should look at the status of the seller and the type of transaction.

VAT

If the seller is registered for VAT (Vendor) and he sells the property in the course of his business, VAT will be payable to SARS. A vendor is a person who runs a business and whose total taxable earnings per year exceed R1 000 000. He will then have to be registered for VAT. A further stipulation is that the property that is being sold must be related to his business from which he derives an income.

The Offer to Purchase should stipulate whether the purchase price includes or excludes VAT. If the Offer to Purchase makes no mention of the payment of VAT and the seller is a VAT vendor, it is then deemed that VAT is included and the seller will have to pay 14% of the purchase price to SARS. It is the seller’s responsibility to pay the VAT to SARS, except if the contract stipulates otherwise.

When a seller is not registered for VAT, but the purchaser is a registered VAT vendor, the purchaser will still pay transfer duty but can claim the transfer duty back from SARS after registration of the property.

Transfer duty

When the seller is not a registered VAT vendor it is almost certain that transfer duty will be payable on the transaction. A purchaser is responsible for payment of the transfer duty. Transfer duty is currently payable on the following scale:

  1. The first R750 000 of the value of the property is exempted from transfer duty.
  2. Thereafter transfer duty is levied at 3% of the value of the property between R750 000 and R1 250 000.
  3. Where the value of the property is from R1 250 001 up to R1 750 000, transfer duty will be R15 000 plus 6% on the value of the property above R1 250 000.
  4. If the value of the property falls between R1 750 001 and R2 250 000, transfer duty will be R45 000 plus 8% of the value of the property above R1750 000.
  5. On a property with a value of R2 250 001 and above transfer duty is R85 000 plus 11% on the value of the property above R2 250 000.

Transfer duty payable by an individual or a legal entity (trust, company or close corporation) is currently charged at the same rate.

Transfer duty is levied on the reasonable value of the property, which will normally be the purchase price, but should the market value be higher than the purchase price, transfer duty will be payable on the highest amount. Transfer duty is payable within six months from the date that the Offer to Purchase was signed.

In instances where a party obtains a property as an inheritance or as the beneficiary of a divorce settlement, the transaction will be exempted from payment of transfer duty.

Where shares in a company or a member’s interest in a close corporation or rights in a trust are transferred, the transaction will be subject to payment of transfer duty if the legal entity is the owner of a residential property.

Zero-rated transactions

This means that VAT will be payable on the transaction but at a zero rate. If both the seller and the purchaser are registered for VAT and the property is sold as a going concern, VAT will be charged at a zero rate, for instance when a farmer sells his farm as well as the cattle and the implements.

Exemption

Transfer duty, and not VAT, will be payable when a seller who is registered for VAT sells a property that was leased for residential purposes.

It is thus important for a purchaser to establish the status of the seller when buying a property. The seller who is registered for VAT should carefully peruse the purchase price clause in a contract before signing, to establish if VAT is included or excluded.

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.

References:
Bingham v City Council of Johannesburg 1934 WLD 180
Vogel v Crewe and another [2004] 1 All SA 587 (T)
Malherbe v Ceres Municipality 1951 (4) SA 510 A

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)

Implications of estate duty

Estate duty is charged on the dutiable value of the estate in terms of the Estate Duty Act. The general rule is that if the taxpayer is ordinarily resident in South Africa at the time of death, all of his/her assets (including deemed property), wherever they are situated, will be included in the gross value of his/her estate for the determination of duty payable thereon.

The current estate duty rate is 20% of the dutiable value of the estate. Foreigners/non-residents also pay estate duty on their South African property.

To minimise the effects of estate duty you need to understand the calculation thereof. The following provisions apply in determining your liability:

  1. Which property is to be included.
  2. Which property constitutes “deemed property”.
  3. Allowable deductions: the possible deductions that are allowed when calculating estate duty.

Property includes all property, or any right to property, including immovable or movable, corporeal or incorporeal – registered in the deceased’s name at the time of his/her death. It also includes certain types of annuities, and options to purchase land or shares, goodwill, and intellectual property.

Deemed property

  1. Insurance policies
  • Includes proceeds of domestic insurance policies (payable in South Africa in South African currency [ZAR]), taken out on the life of the deceased, irrespective of who the owner (beneficiary) is.
  • The proceeds of such a policy are subject to estate duty, however this can be reduced by the amount of the premiums, plus interest at 6% per annum, to the extent that the premiums were paid by a third person (the beneficiary) entitled to the proceeds of the policy. Premiums paid by the deceased himself/herself are not deductible from the proceeds for estate duty purposes.
  • If the proceeds of a policy are payable to the surviving spouse or a child of the deceased in terms of a properly registered antenuptial contract (i.e. registered with the Deeds Office) the policy will be totally exempt from estate duty.
  • Where a policy is taken out on each other’s lives by business partners, and certain criteria are met, the proceeds are exempt from estate duty.

      2. Donations at date of death

Donations where the donee will not benefit until the death of the donor and where the donation only materialises if the donor dies, are not subject to donations tax. These have to be included as an asset in the deceased estate and are subject to estate duty.

      3. Claims in terms of the Matrimonial Property Act (accrual claim)

An accrual claim that the estate of a deceased has against the surviving spouse is property deemed to be property in the deceased estate.

     4. Property that the deceased was competent to dispose of immediately prior to his/her death (Section 3(3)(d) of the Estate Duty Act), like donating an asset to a trust, may be included as deemed property.

Deductions

Some of the most important allowable deductions are:

  1. The cost of funeral, tombstone and deathbed expenses.
  2. Debts due at date of death to persons who have their ordinary residence in South Africa.
  3. The extent to which these debts are to be settled from property included in the estate. This includes the deceased’s income tax liability (which includes capital gains tax) for the period up to the date of death.
  4. Foreign assets and rights:
  • The general rule is that foreign assets and rights of a South African resident, wherever situated, are included in his/her estate as assets.
  • However, the value thereof can be deducted for estate duty purposes where such foreign property was acquired before the deceased became ordinarily resident in South Africa for the first time, or was acquired by way of donation or inheritance from a non-resident, after the donee became ordinarily resident in South Africa for the first time (provided that the donor or testator was not ordinarily resident in South Africa at the time of the donation or death). The amount of any profits or proceeds of any such property is also deductible.
  • Debts and liabilities due to non-residents:

5. Debts and liabilities due to non-residents are deductible but only to the                      extent that such debts exceed the value of the deceased’s assets situated                outside South Africa which have not been included in the dutiable estate.

  1. Bequests to certain public benefit organisations:
  • Where property is bequeathed to a public benefit organisation or public welfare organisation which is exempt from income tax, or to the State or any local authority within South Africa, the value of such property will be able to be deducted for estate duty purposes
  1. Property accruing to a surviving spouse [Section 4(q)]:
  • This includes that much of the value of any property included in the estate that has not already been allowed as a deduction and accrues to a surviving spouse.
  • Note that proceeds of a policy payable to the surviving spouse are required to be included in the estate for estate duty purposes (as deemed property), but that this is deductible in terms of Section 4(q).
  • Section 4(q) deductions will not be granted where the property inherited is subject to a bequest price.
  • Section 4(q) deductions will not be granted where the bequest is to a trust established by the deceased for the benefit of the surviving spouse, if the trustee(s) has/have discretion to allocate such property or any income out of it to any person other than the surviving spouse (a discretionary trust). Where the trustee(s) has/have no discretion as regards both the income and capital of the trust, the Section 4(q) deduction may be granted (a vested trust).

Portable R3.5 million deduction between spouses

The Act allows for the R3.5 million deduction from estate duty to roll over from the deceased to a surviving spouse so that the surviving spouse can use a R7 million deduction amount on his/her death.

Life assurance for estate duty

Estate duty will also normally be leviable on these assurance proceeds.

Source: Moore Stephens’ Estate Planning Guide.

Why is the transfer of my property taking so long?

After signing a deed of sale, the purchasers often want to move into the property with great excitement and as soon as possible. When they are informed of the process involved prior to the property being transferred this may place a damper on their excitement. Coupled with this there may even be delays in the transaction.In order to avoid unnecessary frustration it is vital that parties to the transaction understand the processes involved and that delays are sometimes inevitable. Besides possible delays there are a number of processes that need to be followed before a house can be registered in a purchaser’s name.

At the outset, it must be determined if the deed of sale is valid and binding between the parties. If not, a valid and binding contract will first have to be concluded between the parties.

The deed of sale will normally be the starting point in a transaction for a conveyancer who has been instructed to attend to the transfer. This conveyancer is also known as the transferring attorney and is normally the main link between the other attorneys involved the transfer transaction. Other attorneys involved are normally a bond attorney and/or bond cancellation attorney.

A major role of the transferring attorney is informing any mortgagees, for example banks, about the transfer so that any notice periods for the cancellation of bonds can start running. The notice period is normally up to 90 days. If the bond is cancelled before then, there could be penalties payable. The transfer may therefore be delayed as a result of the notice period.

If the purchaser will be registering a new mortgage bond to finance the transaction, a bond attorney will be appointed. Since the transferring attorney will not normally be aware of whom the instructed bond attorney is, the bank will usually inform the bond attorney of who is attending to the transfer. The bond attorney will then first make contact with the transferring attorney.

Obtaining the various certificates, receipts and consents applicable to the transaction in question also takes time. Examples of these are rates clearance certificate, transfer duty receipt, homeowners association’s consent to the transfer, levy clearance certificate, electrical compliance certificate and plumbing certificate.

The transfer duty receipt is obtained from the Receiver of Revenue and should be lodged with all property transactions, even if no transfer duty is payable to the Receiver of Revenue. During 2013 it took approximately seven working days from the submission of the request, until the transfer duty receipt was issued.

The rates clearance certificate is obtained from the local municipality in the area where the property in question is located. The transferring attorney will first request the municipality to inform him of the amount they require in order to issue the certificate. After receipt thereof the amount can be paid and the transferring attorney will then await the issued certificate. The time this takes differs from municipality to municipality. In the City of Cape Town, during 2013, figures were mostly issued on the same day they were requested and the receipt was issued within approximately five working days after payment. This time frame is largely affected by whether or not the municipality works on an electronic system.

If the property is located in an area where a homeowners’ association is established, there will normally be a title deed condition in terms of which the consent of the homeowners’ association must be obtained prior to the transfer. The time it takes for obtaining this certificate differs from one homeowners’ association to the other.

After an inspection by a plumber or electrician it may be found that certain work needs to be carried out before the certificates will be issued. If the work that must be carried out is extensive this can cause major delays with the transaction.

If the property is being sold by an executor of a deceased estate, the consent of the Master of the High Court must first be obtained before the property can be transferred. Major delays can be experienced if the Master of the High Court refuses to give such consent until certain requirements have been met.

Once the transferring attorney is satisfied that all relevant documents are in place he will arrange simultaneous lodgement at the Deeds Office by all attorneys involved in the transaction. It is therefore vital that the bond attorney has by this time obtained the required approval to lodge from the mortgagee and that the bond cancellation attorney has the required consents in place to cancel the existing bond/s on the property.

Once all the documents are lodged at the Deeds Office, an internal process is followed, which has different time frames in the various Deeds Offices. This time frame can also vary in a particular Deeds Office. It is best to enquire from your conveyancer what the Deeds Office time frame is at any given stage.

The list of possible delays in a transaction varies from one transaction to the other and the possibilities are endless. It is advisable to contact your conveyancer for an explanation should you feel that the process is taking too long.

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)