STANDARD ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS OF DEBT AND THE NATIONAL CREDIT ACT (NCA)

A2_bThe new NCA does not only regulate instalment sale agreements and lease agreements in respect of movables as was done by its predecessor, the repealed Credit Agreements Act 75 of 1980. The NCA also applies to a much wider variety of credit agreements and has no monetary cap. Instead of instituting legal action a creditor often gets a debtor to sign an acknowledgement of debt to facilitate repayment. This document could contain a provision for instalments and interest and fees. The question arises whether this agreement in confirmation of an existing obligation constitutes a credit agreement for purposes of the NCA.

The purpose of this Act is to promote and advance the social and economic welfare of South Africans, promote a fair, transparent, competitive, sustainable, responsible, efficient, effective and accessible credit market and industry, and to protect consumers.

“Credit”, when used as a noun, is defined in the Act as a deferral of payment of money owed to a person or a promise to defer such payment; or a promise to advance or pay money to or at the direction of another person.

“Agreement” includes an arrangement or understanding between or among two or more parties which purports to establish a relationship in law between those parties.

The parties to a credit agreement governed by the NCA are referred to as the “consumer” and the “credit provider” and these definitions should be considered. An acknowledgement of debt normally refers to a historical event of cause and does not constitute a credit guarantee or any of the named credit transactions such as a pawn agreement, discount agreement, incidental credit agreement, instalment agreement, lease, secured loan or mortgage agreement or credit facility. However, the fact that it contains a deferral of payment and requires the payment of interest, fees and other charges, will cause it to fall within the ambit of the catch-all term “credit transaction” provided for in Section 8(4)(f) of the Act.

Section 2(1) provides that the Act must be interpreted in a manner that gives effect to the purposes set out in Section 3. The question really is whether the legislature intended the rearrangement or the repayment terms of an existing debt, for instance where money has already been advanced to a consumer a considerable period of time ago or where damages were suffered as a result of a delict or breach of contract, to constitute a credit agreement or transaction for purposes of the NCA. Due to the elements of deferral and the charging of interest, fees and other charges in a standard acknowledgement of debt, and in the absence of any express or implicit indication to the contrary, it seems an inescapable conclusion that the agreement could be defined as a credit agreement within the meaning of the NCA. The relevance of this is that it might be that the credit provider would be required to register as such with the National Credit Regulator, affordability assessment would have to be done prior to conclusion, the consumer could become overindebted and apply for debt review, and so many onerous requirements will be applicable.

It is submitted that where the cause of action in relation to which the acknowledgement of debt was entered into is based on a contract or agreement which constitutes a credit agreement, the insertion of a no-novation clause into an acknowledgement of debt will not serve to exclude the agreement subsequently concluded, from the ambit of the NCA. However, where the debt initially arose as a result of a delict, the insertion of a no-novation clause might have the effect of preserving the original cause of action, namely the delict, and thus cause the matter to fall outside the scope of the NCA.

One thing to be kept in mind is that a “consumer”, in respect of a credit agreement to which the NCA applies, means

(a) the party to whom goods or services are sold under a discount transaction, incidental credit agreement or instalment agreement;

(b) the party to whom money is paid, or credit granted, under a pawn transaction;

(c) the party to whom credit is granted under a credit facility;

(d) the mortgagor under a mortgage agreement;

(e) the borrower under a secured loan;

(f) the lessee under a lease;

(g) the guarantor under a credit guarantee; or

(h) the party to whom or at whose direction money is advanced or credit granted under any other credit agreement.

This definition might provide the answer as the acknowledgement of debt might, as a different cause of action, not qualify the consumer under the above definition. So, too, is the underlying cause of action to the acknowledgement of debt, and it deserves no debate that signing an acknowledgement of debt is not something to go about without due consideration.

Should a court be convinced that the written acknowledgement of debt is subject to the NCA the court could be required to make a ruling in terms of Section 130(4)(b) of the NCA, which states:

In any proceedings contemplated in this section, if the court determines that – … the credit provider has not complied with the relevant provisions of this Act, as contemplated in subsection (3)(a), or has approached the court in circumstances contemplated in subsection (3)(c) the court must – adjourn the matter before it; and make an appropriate order setting out the steps the credit provider must complete before the matter may be resumed.

In Adams v SA Motor Industry Employers Association 1981 (3) SA 1189 (A) at 1198 – 1199, the court held that there is a presumption against novation and that, where novation was not intended, it was possible for two obligations to co-exist. These obligations would be interdependent, and the creditor does not have a free election to enforce the original obligation. An acknowledgment of debt, sometimes referred to as an IOU, is evidence of a debt which is due, but differs from a promissory note as it does not contain an express promise to pay. However, where the acknowledgment of debt is coupled with an undertaking to pay, it will give rise to an obligation in terms of that undertaking.

The case of Rodel Financial Service (Pty) Ltd v Naidoo and Another 2013 (3) Sa 151 (Kzp), and its annotations is recommended for reading and getting a better understanding of the applicable principles.

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-OWNERSHIP OF LAND

A1_bThe word “co-ownership” in relation to land means that two or more persons own land simultaneously in undivided shares. A share in land does not represent, and may not be held to represent a defined portion of land. A co-owner who holds a share in land does not hold title to a defined piece of land even if by arrangement with his co-owners they might have agreed to give him occupation of a specific portion of land. The title he has is to an undivided share only, in the whole of the land, held in joint ownership. The portion he occupies is owned jointly by him and his co-owners in the whole thereof. If he should build a house on the portion he occupies, the house will be owned jointly.

When X, Y and Z are co-owners of a farm, they are not each entitled to a physical part of the farm but each of them has an undivided share in the whole of the farm. The shares will not always be equal. One person can have half a share while the other two can each have a twenty five percent share. However, co-ownership unfortunately often leads to disputes among the owners.

 Co-operation between the co-owners

It is advisable that co-owners enter into an agreement which regulates the relationship between them. Unfortunately this agreement will have no bearing against third parties. The consent of all the co-owners is required when administrative decisions have to be made. No owner is entitled to change or improve the property without the consent of the other owners. All the owners have to agree to the use of the property, e.g. they have to agree to the chopping down of trees, the erection of a storage facility/building, or to let cattle graze in the field. If co-owners are not consulted they may request an interdict from the court. The court may even order that buildings that have been erected, be removed. However, in instances where the aim is to preserve the property, it is not always necessary to obtain the consent of the co-owners.

The profits and losses

All the co-owners must contribute proportionally to necessary and also useful expenses for the preservation of the property. Such expenses include taxes and expenses to maintain the property in good condition, but do not include luxury expenses. Losses and charges must be shared by the co-owners, except those attributable to negligence of one of the owners. As with expenses, fruits and profits must be divided amongst the co-owners according to each owner’s shareholding.

Alienation of a share

A co-owner may alienate his share or even bequeath it to his heirs, without the consent of the other owners, even against their will. A co-owner’s share may also be attached by the sheriff.

Use of the property

Each co-owner may use the property in accordance with his undivided share. He must, however, use it with due regard to the rights of the other co-owners. Each co-owner, his employees and guests are entitled to free entry to any part of the property, except if the co-owners have agreed that a portion of the property is reserved for the exclusive use of one co-owner.

Partition

Co-owners may decide to partition the property, usually if they cannot agree on the utilisation of the property. The property will then be divided physically in accordance with the value of the property and each owner’s share in it. When this is uneconomic, which is usually the case with a farm, the property can be awarded to one co-owner, but he must then compensate the other co-owners. The court may also order that the property be sold by public auction and the proceeds divided amongst the co-owners. There is strict statutory control over the subdivision of land and also the actual physical division and use of land, so that partition may not always be possible.

Co-ownership is an excellent vehicle to becoming an owner of a property that one otherwise might not be able to afford. However, be aware of the pitfalls, choose your co-owners wisely, and draw up an agreement to regulate payment of the bond and rates, the day-to-day expenses and house rules.

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).

Review of Directors’ Decisions

A4_bIn the previous article regarding “informal” decisions by directors, we considered what acts or decisions may be considered as informal decisions by directors. The precedents established by the courts were discussed, which precedents are considered regarding the enforce-ability of these “consents” and the validity of informal decisions by directors. Directors of homeowners’ associations have been forewarned to be diligent and carefully choose their words in conversations with other members, especially when these members paint pictures of proposed building projects. And more specifically, directors are to keep their opinion for the debate of the properly tabled application, especially concerning additions and alterations to the property of the member. The rules of the homeowners’ association regarding aesthetics and other such requirements should be paramount in the decision-making process.

But what if the member did comply with the prescribed formal requirements and the board of directors did not approve the request? Where does that leave the directors and the member?

The courts will not interfere with the decision made by a homeowners’ association save on recognised grounds of judicial review as applied to voluntary associations whose members have bound themselves to its rules, which include the conferring of decision–making functions of elected body of directors (Turner vs Jockey Club of South Africa 1974 (3) SA; SA Medical & Dental Council vs McLoughlin 1948 (2) SA 355 (AD) and Marlin vs Durban Turf Club & Others 1942 AD 112).

 The grounds of judicial review are restricted to whether the tribunal was competent to make the decision and whether it complied with the requirements of procedural and substantive fairness which effectively is limited to whether the procedure or decision taken was tainted by irregularity or illegality – unfairness per se is not enough (Bel Porto School Governing Body & Others vs Premier, Western Cape & Another 2002 (3) SA).

 The traditional common law grounds of review of a voluntary association tribunal include illegality, procedural unfairness and irrationality. Prior to the constitutional dispensation, the ambit of the voluntary associations had been settled in case law. The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, Act 3 of 2000 (PAJA) applies to administrative action on the part of an organ of state or a juristic person exercising a public power or performing a public function.  Accordingly, directors of homeowners’ associations do not fall within the scope of the PAJA.  Section 39(2) of the Constitution on the other hand, requires a court, when developing the common law, to promote the spirit, purport and objectives of the Bill of Rights.

The judgement in the matter of Theron and Andere vs Ring van Wellington van die NG Sending Kerk in Suid-Afrika en Andere 1976 (2) SA 1 (A) has already confirmed that a reasonableness test based on rationality was a competent basis under the common law powers to review decisions of voluntary associations. The court will therefore consider a ground of review that included unreasonableness in the sense that the decision could not reasonably be supported by evidence. There appears to be no difference in principle for present purposes between common law grounds of review in relation to voluntary associations and the grounds of review provided for by PAJA.

Various case laws confirm that a court will only interfere with the decision of the directors of a homeowners’ association where that body has failed to comply with the natural justice requirements of legality, procedural fairness and reasonableness, the latter in the sense of a rational connection existing between the facts presented and the considerations that were applied in reaching the conclusion.

If the Memorandum of Incorporation or rules of the homeowners’ association prescribe a formal procedure to follow for permission or consent to be obtained regarding any alteration or other building projects, any member who did not submit a formal request for the building project, even if it is only the erection of a fence and did not include the detail of the fence to be erected for approval prior to the erection thereof, then the fence is “illegal”.

The board of directors of any homeowners’ association has an obligation to enforce the Memorandum of Association and/or the Memorandum of Incorporation and the rules of the association, and should do so in the interests of the whole of the estate and all its members.

Any building project which has been embarked on or even finished without proper procedures followed by the homeowner, and which does not comply with the aesthetical requirements of the homeowners’ association as is prescribed in the rules, are “illegal” in that the member erected the building without formally complying with the requirements of the homeowners’ association.   Directors should carefully consider each and every such building project within the jurisdiction of the association and, in the best interest of all members of the association, invite such members affected for an informal, amicable discussion regarding the removal or further alteration of the building or building project, even if it is only a fence and the time periods to do so. It is important to note that such members should still be obliged to comply with the formal requirements as prescribed by the association. These applications can be tabled in terms of the formal procedures prescribed with consideration to formally consent thereto retrospectively by the board of directors on condition that all prescriptive requirements have been fully met, even if it is merely aesthetically.

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.

So when am I Authorized to act as Trustee?

A3_bThe Trust Property Control Act 57 of 1988 defines a trustee as meaning “any person (including the founder of the trust) who acts as a trustee by virtue of an authorisation under Section 6.” In the matter of Lupacchini vs Minister of Safety and Security (16/2010) [2010], ZASCA 108   (17 September 2010), the position of a trustee acting without the authorisation of the Master was considered, where that “trustee” authorised legal proceedings.

A trust that is established by a trust deed is not a legal person – it is a legal relationship of a special kind that is described by the authors of Honoré’s South African Law of Trusts[1] as “a legal institution in which a person, the trustee, subject to public supervision, holds or administers property separately from his or her own, for the benefit of another person or persons or for the furtherance of a charitable or other purpose.”

 Although the trust property vests in each trustee individually they have to act jointly unless the deed of trust provides otherwise. Their individual interests do not waive the requirement that they have to act jointly.

The consequence of the validity of an act that has taken place in conflict with a statutory prohibition has been considered in numerous cases, and depends on a proper construction of the particular legislation and the intention of the legislature.

The whole scheme of the act is to provide a manner in which the Master can supervise trustees in the proper administration of trusts, and their knowledge of Article 6(1) is essential to such purpose, and by placing a bar on trustees from acting as such until authorised by the Master, the Act endeavours to ensure that trustees can only act as such if they comply with the Act.

In the Kropman NO vs Nysschen[2] it was held that a court has the discretion to retrospectively validate acts of a trustee that are performed without the requisite authority. This proposition was in later cases rejected persuasively.

“Locus standi in iudicio” on the other hand is something else and does not depend on the authority to act but depends on whether the litigant is regarded by the court as having a sufficiently close interest in the litigation.

Although section 6(1) suspends a trustee’s power to act in that capacity he or she could have a sufficiently well-defined and close interest in the administration of the trust to have locus standi.

The essence of the prohibitory phrase in section 6(1), “… shall act in that capacity only if authorised thereto …”, must be interpreted to mean that a trustee may not, prior to the Masters authorisation, acquire rights for, or contractually incur liabilities on behalf of, the trust and is not intended to regulate questions of locus standi in iudicio.’

Legal proceedings commenced by unauthorised trustees and commercial transactions binding the trust are invalid and void.

[1] 5th ed (2002) by Edwin Cameron with Marius de Waal, Basil Wunsh and Peter Solomon para 1.

[2] 1999 (2) SA 567 (T) at 576F.

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.

Are there limitations on Ownership Rights?

A2_bIt is a recognized 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 neighbor 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.

Tenant and Landlord – What are your Rights and Obligations?

A1_b

Sandra would like to move into her own place but like many people she is unsure what a lease is and what responsibilities it will place on her. A lease agreement is defined as the agreement entered into between the tenant and the landlord for the leasing of a property. The lease agreement regulates the rights and obligations of both parties and protects the parties mutually.

The Rental Housing Act No 50/1999, as amended by the Rental Housing Amendment Act No 43/2007, regulates the relationship between a tenant and a landlord, even before commencement of the lease agreement.

The Act determines that the landlord may not discriminate against the prospective tenant, his family or friends, including on grounds of race, sex, pregnancy or marital status. This applies as early as placing an ad for the leasing of a property or even during negotiations between prospective tenants and the landlord.

The lease itself does not have to be in writing to be binding on both parties and should a tenant request that an oral agreement be reduced to writing, the landlord may not refuse the request.

A written lease agreement must contain the following information:

  1. The names of the parties, as well as their South African addresses;
  2. A description of the property being leased;
  3. The monthly rental payable and reasonable increases;
  4. The deposit payable, if applicable;
  5. The period for which the property will be leased. Should the agreement not mention a specific period of lease, the agreement must indicate the notice period required should one of the parties wish to terminate the contract;
  6. Any other consideration, besides the monthly rent, which may be payable;
  7. A complete list of defects that are present at the time that the parties entered into the lease agreement.

If the property is situated in a complex that has its own rules, a copy of those rules should be attached to the lease agreement. The landlord must ensure that he/she gives effect to the provisions contained in the lease agreement.

As mentioned, mutual rights and obligations are created for both parties in the lease agreement. These rights and obligations include the following:

Tenant’s rights:

  1. To jointly inspect the property before the tenant moves in and record any defects or damage to the property. This provision protects the tenant at the end of the lease period to ensure that the tenant will not be held liable for damages that already existed at the time the lease was entered into.
  2. During the lease period, the tenant has the right to privacy and the tenant’s property, home or person may not be searched.
  3. If the landlord fails to inspect the property upon expiry of the lease, the tenant can assume that the landlord acknowledges that no damage has been done to the property, and that the full deposit, together with interest thereon, must be refunded to the tenant.

Landlord’s rights:

  1. To request a deposit, in the amount agreed upon between the parties, before the tenant takes occupation of the property.
  2. To receive timeous payment of the monthly rent and also to collect overdue payments, after a court order or order from a Tribunal has been obtained.
  3. To receive the property in a good condition upon termination of the lease.
  4. To jointly inspect the property within three days before the lease expires and determine if any damage has been done to the property for which the tenant should be held liable.
  5. To recover the cost of repairs, should the property be damaged, from the tenant.
  6. Should the tenant not give access to the property for a joint inspection before expiry of the lease, the landlord should inspect the property within seven days after expiry of the lease and utilise the deposit for necessary repairs. The balance of the deposit, if any, should be refunded to the tenant within twenty-one days.

Landlord’s obligations:

  1. To invest the tenant’s deposit in an interest-bearing account at a financial institution, with an interest rate equal to or higher than the interest rate at that time earned on a savings account at such financial institution. The tenant may request proof that the deposit is invested and the landlord may not withhold such evidence.
  2. To furnish the tenant with a receipt for each payment made by the tenant, which receipt should clearly describe the property, be dated, and indicate in full what the payment is made for (e.g. Rent for the month of February 2013, or deposit).
  3. To utilise the deposit to repair any damage to the property or to recover arrears rent after expiry of the lease, and to pay the balance together with interest earned thereon to the tenant within fourteen days after the expiry of the lease.
  4. To keep all receipts in respect of repairs done to the property which were deducted from the tenant’s deposit, and make such receipts available to the tenant.
  5. To refund the tenant’s deposit together with interest thereon, within seven days of the expiry of the lease, in the event that no repairs are to be made to the property.

Should a dispute arise between the parties, the Rental Housing Tribunal in the area where the dispute arises, can be contacted.

It is very important for both the tenant and the landlord to make sure that their intentions are clearly defined in the lease and that they understand the terms of the lease before the lease agreement is signed. All provisions, responsibilities and obligations should also be clearly set out in the agreement. It is advisable to seek legal advice if any uncertainties arise, before the lease agreement is signed.

References:

Rental Housing Act No 50/1999, as amended by Rental Housing Amendment Act No 43/2007

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.

TO PROSECUTE OR NOT

A1_bAn action may be a crime or a delict but where your actions were trivial, a court may decide not to prosecute you or a judge will not entertain a claim against you due to the de minimis non curat lex rule.

If you find yourself charged with a minor crime such as theft for taking one small sweet from a store then the de minimis non curat lex rule (de minimis), which means “the law does not concern itself with trifles”, may come in handy for you.

De minimis is a decision of a court to allow unlawful conduct to go unpunished due to its triviality. An example of such a decision is where the Appellate Division in S v Kgogong refused to convict a person of theft because the accused stole a worthless piece of paper. Another example would be from the case of S v Dane where a person accused of malicious damage to property was acquitted because all he had done was to cut a small portion of another person’s hedge.

The application of the de minimis maxim is very limited in regard to statutory offences. This was discussed in the case of DPP (EC) v Klue in which the High Court overturned the Magistrate’s decision that the offence of driving a vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration exceeding the prescribed minimum was de minimis.

The High Court held in the abovementioned case that the aims and objectives of the legislation containing the offence are important and that the Road Traffic Act, in particular the provision offended, is aimed at reducing road accidents. The High Court also held that there was no room for the Magistrate to apply the de minimis maxim because the minimum amounts had already been determined after careful consideration by the Legislature.

The de minimis maxim also applies to criminal assault charges and delictual claims. In regard to delictual claims, when a person’s bodily integrity has been wrongfully and intentionally infringed, he or she can claim satisfaction with the actio iniurarum unless the de minimis rule applies to his or her claim. In regard to criminal assault charges trivial assaults, such as a slap on the back or a shove in a crowd may be disregarded in terms of the de minimis rule. This would have to be seen in context of the nature of the act, especially where one is dealing with sexual assault, as a mere touch could be very serious and in these circumstances the de minimis rule would not come into play.

The purpose of the de minimis rule is to avoid the burdening of the courts with minimal complaints which would result in wasted costs, resources and time. It is further to avoid the situation where more serious crimes and delictual claims take even longer to be dealt with due to these trivial issues taking up the court’s time. This will result in the criminal justice system and the court system being brought into disrepute for not being able to deal with serious matters efficiently.

Bibliography
• Burchell J: Principles of Criminal Law 2006 (3rd ed) 355 – 356
• S v Kgogong 1980 (3) SA 600 (A)
• S v Dane 1957 (2) SA 472 (N)
• DPP (EC) v Klue 2003 (1) SACR 389 (E)
• Road Traffic Act 93 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.

VALIDITY OF ANTENUPTIAL CONTRACTS

A4_bOne must be careful when drafting and signing an Antenuptial Contract. Aside from ensuring that the contents is all correct, one must also ensure that all the necessary provisions are contained therein to make the contract valid. The consequences of neglecting to do so may result in a marriage in community of property even though the parties had no intention of this at the time of their marriage.

Attorneys are often trusted with the task of drafting an Antenuptial Contract. This is a contract, which one signs to regulate the property regime of a marriage. If a couple does not sign, an Antenuptial Contract then the marital property regime will be that of in community of property. The presence of an Antenuptial Contract means that the marital property regime is that of out of community of property and the parties must specifically stipulate whether they would like the accrual system to apply to their marriage or not.

The importance of ensuring that all the necessary provisions are contained in the Antenuptial Contract to result in a valid contract was discussed in the 2014 Supreme Court of Appeal Case of B v B[1]. In this case, no values were stated in respect of any of the assets listed in the Antenuptial Contract and they were also not properly identified. In B v B the court stated that if the terms of a contract are so vague and incoherent as to be incapable of a sensible construction then the contract must be regarded as void for vagueness.[2]

According to Section 6(1) of the Matrimonial Property Act[3] ,a party to an intended marriage which does not, for the purpose of proof of the value of his or her estate at the time of the commencement of the marriage, declare the value in the contract, then he or she may do so within six months of the marriage in a statement attested to by a notary. If this is not done, according to Section 6(4) of the Marital Property Act, the net value of the estate of a spouse is then deemed to be nil at the time of the marriage. In effect, such a contract is valid but it will effectively render the marriage in community of property since nothing was excluded from the accrual.

However, if a contract is contradictory and incoherent in other respects then it cannot be seen as a valid contract since there is no certainty as to the meaning of the contract and what the parties seek to achieve. This means that the contract would not embody terms that would enable to court to give effect to the intention of the parties at the time the contract was concluded.

The result of such a contract is that the Antenuptial Contract would be void for vagueness and that the marital property regime would be the default position according to the Marital Property Act, which is in community of property.

Therefore, parties are encouraged to read their contracts thoroughly and ensure that they understand the terms thereof and that the contract embodies their intentions without any further explanations or evidence.

[1] (952/12) [2014] ZASCA 14 (24 March 2014).

[2] B v B (952/12) [2014] ZASCA 14 (24 March 2014) par 7.

[3] 88 of 1984.

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.

RESCISSION OF JUDGEMENT

A3_bImagine receiving the nasty surprise that default judgement has been entered against your name because of a summons that you have never even received. It is necessary that you know the procedure of how to rescind a default judgement to get you out of this unwanted situation.

Many people are confronted with the unfortunate situation of a judgement being entered against their name, without even being aware that legal action is being taken against them. The reason for this is that when a party fails to deliver a notice of intention to defend a summons, a Plaintiff is entitled to lodge an application for default judgment.[1]

The reason for many Defendants not filing a notice of intention to defend, is the fact that they simply never receive the summons initiating an action against them. Personal service of documents by the Sheriff is only required where the matter affects a person’s personal status, such as with divorces and sequestrations. As it is not a requirement for the Sheriff personally, to serve a summons on a person, it can lead to situations where the Defendant never sees the summons, although the Sheriff stated that the summons has been legitimately served.[2] An example hereof many people who indicate their domicilium citandi et executandi or nominated address where notices are sent, in an agreement. In the event of the Defendant moving, the Sheriff will still deliver the summons to this address, but the Defendant will never receive it.

In the event of a Defendant not receiving a summons, certain steps have to be taken to have the judgment rescinded. The Defendant has to serve and file his application for rescission of judgment within 20 days after becoming aware of the judgment that was entered against him.[3] The Defendant (now the Applicant) is required to set out in an affidavit why the matter was not defended and what the bona fide defence is to the claim.  The onus is upon the Applicant to set out legitimate reasons for why the matter was not defended.[4]

When bringing an application for the rescission of judgement before court, the following principles are applicable:[5]

The Applicant must give a reasonable explanation for his default. The court will be unwilling to help the Applicant if it is found that he was aware of the proceedings against him or if the default was simply due to his own negligence. If the Applicant’s default is of a wilful or negligent nature, these will serve as considerations that the court will take into account when deciding whether an application should be granted.

In many cases an Applicant simply rescinds a default judgement to delay the inevitable. It is therefore necessary for the Applicant to show that he is not simply delaying the Plaintiff’s claim. A bona fide defence, in other word a genuine defence, must therefore be shown, although it is not required to deal fully with the merits thereof or produce any evidence in this regard.

Ultimately, the court has discretion whether to rescind the default judgment or not, based on whether good cause was shown by the Applicant.[6]

Although it involves an unwanted and often lengthy and expensive process, it is important to have any judgments against your name rescinded as soon as possible, as they have a negative impact on your credit rating. These judgements, if executed, will also leave you highly annoyed when the Sheriff shows up on your doorstep with a warrant of execution to seize your personal belongings.

[1] Magistrates Court, Rules of Court, Rule 12(1)(c)

[2] Magistrates Court, Rules of Court, Rule 9(3)

[3] Magistrates Court, Rules of Court, Rule 49(1)

[4] Du Plessis v Tager 1953 (2) SA 5 (O)

[5] Grant v Plumbers (Pty) Ltd 1949 (2) SA 470 (O)

[6] De Witts Auto Body Repairs v Fedgen Insurance Co Ltd 1994 (4) SA 705

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.

ANNULMENT OF A MARRIAGE

A2_bConsent is an essential element of a valid marriage and the parties to a marriage must confirm before the marriage officer during a civil ceremony that they voluntarily consent to marry each other.[1] There are certain circumstances where it can be said that consensus was not present, and this will be discussed below.

Six months after John marries Laura they decide that they want to start a family. John finds out from the doctors that he is sterile and cannot have children. Laura is distraught and contacts her attorney, saying that she would never have married John if she had known that he could not have children.

Laura’s attorney explains to her the circumstances in which consensus will either be lacking or materially deficient, in which case the marriage can be annulled (set aside).

Firstly, a material mistake will result in a lack of consensus. A material mistake is limited to where there is a mistake as to the identity of your spouse or a mistake regarding the actual act of marriage in that you did not understand that the ceremony in which you took part resulted in marriage with the other party. In these circumstances there is uncertainty as to whether the marriage never came into existence or if it can be set aside. One may also make mistakes regarding the personal characteristics of your spouse. This may only be a ground on which the validity of the marriage can be challenged if these are material characteristics. The decision whether a mistake regarding a personal characteristic is material or not rests with the Court.[2]

Secondly, a misrepresentation by your spouse may justify the setting aside of a marriage if that misrepresentation relates to a material aspect of the marriage. In the scenario above, if John was aware of the fact that he was sterile before entering into the marriage with Laura, then Laura could attempt to prove that she was misled and state that if she was aware of John’s sterility, she would never have married him. However, if John was unaware that he was sterile, this is not a sufficient ground on which to set a marriage aside.[3]

Thirdly, if one of the parties was unduly influenced or placed under duress to marry the other party by any person including but not limited to the party to which they have been married, then there is no consensus and the marriage can be set aside.[4]

Fourthly, impotence, being the inability to have sexual intercourse, may be a valid ground for setting aside a marriage, but this will not be so if it was reasonably foreseeable at the time that the marriage was entered into that sexual intercourse wouldn’t take place based on factors such as age or illness.[5]

Fifthly, if the scenario above was altered to read that Laura was pregnant with another man’s baby at the time that she married John then he could apply to have the marriage set aside on the basis that this state of affairs would most likely result in an unhappy marriage. He may only make this application if he was unaware of the pregnancy at the time that they were married and if he has not waived his right to have the marriage annulled.[6]

Bibliography:

  • Robinson JA, Human S, Boshoff A, Smith BS, Carnelley M, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th, 2009, 92 – 94.
  • Heaton J, South African Family Law 3rd, 2010, 37.
  • Marriage Act, 25 of 1961.

[1] Section 30(1) of the Marriage Act, 25 of 1961.

[2] Robinson JA, Human S, Boshoff A, Smith BS, Carnelley M, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 92.

[3] Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 93.

[4] Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 93.

[5] Heaton J, South African Family Law, 3rd ed. (2010) 38; Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 94.

[6] Heaton J, South African Family Law 3rd ed. (2010) 37; Robinson JA, Introduction to South African Family Law, 4th ed. (2009) 94.

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.