Category Archives: Property

Before leasing, include these in the agreement

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

  1. Basic information

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

  1. A deposit and other fees

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

  1. Responsibilities, repairs and maintenance of the premises

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

  1. Subletting and limits on occupancy

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

  1. Rent payment

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

  1. Termination of lease

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

  1. Pets

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

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

There is a way to keep the view

When you purchase a house with a view, you probably think that you are going to enjoy this view every day for the rest of your life. Until you receive a flyer with a picturesque multi-story building guaranteed to block your view. This will definitely result in a few disputes that will leave you wishing you had secured your view.

Right to the view

Just because the property has an unrestricted view, it does not mean that the view is the owner’s. To secure it, a registration of a servitude against the title deeds of the properties in the Deeds Office. This includes the natural growth of trees or plants that will block the view over time.

The registered servitude

The registration of the servitude must be made clear where the intentions of the servitude are established and made clear. This is so that when an issue regarding property views reaches the court, the court would need not be concerned about ambiguity and surrounding circumstances.

Court’s considerations

Before reaching a decision, the court may be mindful of considerations when the servitude is interpreted. The result will try, as far as possible, to alleviate burdens on the servient property owner. Emphasis is placed on views and the purpose of the servitude as to provide unobstructed views as they existed at the time of the creation of the servitude.

A new property owner may have to consider the type of building they are wishing to erect so it does not impose on any restrictions in terms of an agreement made by the “owner” of the view.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

How binding are body corporate fines?

In an estate or sectional title scheme, it is challenging to ensure that everyone will stick to the conduct rules and to aid this, body corporates often fine the chancers. How far can the body corporates stretch their fining, and are these fines binding?

Each body corporate may choose what to impose formally in their code of conduct unless a rule is already part of the conduct rules in terms of the Sectional Titles Act. This is the only way the fines can be binding as enforceable, and they have to be reasonable and fair.

When fines are imposed, they cannot favour or benefit certain residents while leaving others out of mind. Substantially, they must serve the same purpose. The notification of a fine must be received by the owner or resident through writing. There is a correct way in which fines may be imposed:

  1. Complainants to lodge complaint

This must be lodged in writing or through an incident report to the trustees or the estate’s managing agent.

  1. Notice of particulars of the complaint

The owner and the tenant, or the resident, must be given a notice of the particulars contained in the complained as well as reasonable time to respond to the complaint. The resident/tenant must also be given enough information regarding the incident, including the rules that they may have broken.

  1. Second notice

Should the owner or resident not heed the first notice, a second notice may be issued mentioning the contravention is continuous or has been repeated. The transgressor must then be invited to a trustee meeting where they will be given a platform to present their case or defend themselves.

  1. The hearing before the fine

Before a fine is imposed, a hearing must have taken place. In the meeting, witnesses may be called to testify in favour of the transgressor and the transgressor may state their side of the story. Those who laid the complaint may also be cross-examined.

  1. Discussing evidence

Once the hearing is over, the trustees may then review the evidence presented to them and make a decision on whether or not to impose the fine.

If a fine is imposed, the amount should be reasonable, substantial and be proportionate to the purpose of the penalty.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

Rental rights during the water crisis

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

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

  • Ongoing water supply:

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

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

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

  • Reduced utility charges:

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

  • Municipal bills and fines:

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

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

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

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

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

When can the municipality disconnect my water and electricity?

The municipality is the place where most, if not all, services are monitored for their availability to a property, and it is the very place that may cut off the supply of said services. Their authority does, however, come with the responsibility of remaining within the legal boundaries of managing the supply of services to properties. This article will explore the legalities of disconnecting water or electricity.

Accounts in arrears

If one of your municipal services is in arrears, the municipality is well within their rights to disconnect whatever service when there are undisputed arrears owed to any other service in connection with the related property. Before any disconnection takes place, there is a procedure for the municipality to follow.

Notices

The municipality is legally obligated to give a notice to the person responsible for the account. A minimum of 14 days written notice of termination is required for water and electricity accounts in arrears and if the notice period is shorter than 14 days, or not supplied, the disconnection is illegal. The 14-day notice gives the responsible party an opportunity to present any disputes or queries they may have regarding the account or allow them to repay the arrears.

The query period

Once a query relating to the account has been put in, the municipality may not disconnect services provided that the amount being queried is equal to the amount in arrears. In the case where the amount is less that the amount in arrears, the service may be disconnected for the undisputed amount owing.

Payment of arrears

When a query has been logged, it can only be valid for so long provided that the monthly bill or any other related payments are being made to the respective account. If the responsible person does not make any form of payment, the service may be disconnected even if a logged query exists with the municipality.

State where the payment should go

If there is an account dispute and the responsible person makes a payment to the municipality, the municipality may choose to allocate that money to any account they wish to do so. This means the account in need of the payment may not have the payment made into it. To curb this, the responsible person must notify the municipality, in writing, of the payments being made as well as which account they should be allocated to. This must be done before payment is made.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

Can trustees ban your pet in a sectional title scheme?

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

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

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

It states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference List:

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).

How to evict an illegal tenant

Landlords who have tenants that they believe are occupying their premises illegally may not forcefully remove such tenants. The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (No. 19 of 1998) provides for the prohibition of unlawful eviction and also provides proper procedures for the eviction of unlawful occupiers.

According to the Act:

  • no one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property;
  • no one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances;
  • it is desirable that the law should regulate the eviction of unlawful occupiers from land in a fair manner, while recognising the right of land owners to apply to a court for an eviction order in appropriate circumstances;
  • special consideration should be given to the rights of the elderly, children, disabled persons and particularly households headed by women, and that it should be recognised that the needs of those groups should be considered;

Procedure regarding evictions in terms of the PIE Act:

  1. According to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), to cancel a fixed-term lease you must give the tenant at least 20 business days’ notice to rectify a material breach of the lease, failing which the lease will be cancelled.
  2. After 21 days, you can send the tenant a letter to cancel the lease. The letter should state that the tenant is now deemed to be occupying the property unlawfully and that he or she must vacate the premises by a specific date.
  3. If the tenant/occupier has not left the premises by the date mentioned in the letter of cancellation, then your lawyer can lodge an eviction application, which includes seeking the court’s permission to serve a notice of motion on the occupier.

References:

  • Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (No. 19 of 1998), South Africa
  • “How to evict a tenant (lawfully)”, Mark Bechard, Personal Finance, IOL. https://www.iol.co.za/personal-finance/how-to-evict-a-tenant-lawfully-2059984

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).

Sectional titles: What is the role of the body corporate?

When it comes to sectional title schemes, there is still widespread misunderstanding of even the basics, starting with the body corporate and how it is established, as well as what its functions and powers are. This misunderstanding often gives rise to many problems and disputes in sectional title schemes which could quite easily have been avoided.

What is a sectional title?

A Sectional Title Development Scheme, usually referred to as a “scheme”, provides for separate ownership of a property, by individuals. These schemes fall under the control of the Sectional Titles Act, which came into effect on 1 June 1988.

When you buy a property that’s part of a scheme, you own the inside of the property i.e. the space contained by the inner walls, ceilings & floors of the unit. You are entitled to paint or decorate or undertake alterations as desired, providing such alterations do not infringe on municipal by-laws.

What is the body corporate?

The Body Corporate is the collective name given to all the owners of units in a scheme. Units usually refers to the townhouses or flats in a development. The body corporate comes into existence as soon as the developer of the scheme transfers a unit to a new owner. This means that all registered owners of units in a scheme are members of the Body Corporate.

  1. The Body Corporate controls and runs the Scheme.
  2. Day-to-day administration of the Scheme is vested in trustees who are appointed by the Body Corporate.
  3. Major decisions regarding the Scheme are made by the Body Corporate, usually at the annual general meeting (AGM), or at a special general meeting (SGM). At these meetings, matters, which affect the Scheme, are discussed, budgets are approved, rules can be changed and trustees are appointed. Each member of a Body Corporate is entitled to vote at these meetings, providing that the member is not in arrears with levy payments or in serious breach of the rules.

The Body Corporate exists to manage and administer the land and buildings in the scheme. This means, that the Body Corporate is required to enforce the legislation and rules in the Sectional Titles Act, the Management Rules and the Conduct Rules of the scheme. Amongst their other duties, the Trustees manage the Body Corporate’s funds, enforce the rules and resolve conflict to the best of their ability.

References:

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).

Has your property been damaged?

What happens when your property has been purposefully damaged, especially during an altercation?

Uber car torching

During the road closures by meter taxis in Johannesburg on October 27 2017, two Uber drivers’ cars were set alight. A total of thirty meter taxi drivers were arrested for traffic disruption on the R21 and R24 highways of Johannesburg, and further investigations were underway as to determine how the cars were torched during the protest. With the meter taxi drivers being responsible for the flames, and assaulting an Uber passenger before leaving with her belongings. There have been ongoing violent feuds between Uber, meter taxis and taxi drivers, and in one instance, an Uber passenger was stabbed in the face, allegedly by a taxi driver. Two cars, believed to be Uber vehicles, were petrol-bombed earlier in September.

Malicious damage to property

Damaging property belonging to someone else is common – someone’s car door could fling to bump yours, the neighbour’s son may swing a cricket ball towards your kitchen window. These are mistakes which don’t normally require the assistance of authorities. Malicious damage to property is the intentional and unlawful vandalization of property or belongings of another person. As a criminal offence in South Africa, damage to property extends over to the physical harm of pets, and the vandalization of cars, furniture and other tangible items which can cause financial setbacks.

Suing for malicious damage for property follows reporting the incident as soon as possible. It is advised to keep records, such as photographs, names of witnesses, time of incident, and most importantly, financial records of repairing or replacing said property or belongings. It is important to note that in cases where property is damaged in an act of self-defence, or protecting property, the claim for malicious damage to property will not be a successful one.

References:

  • Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977. (1977). [ebook] p.194. Available at: http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/1977-051.pdf [Accessed 31 Oct. 2017].

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)

Title deeds when buying or selling property

If you’re planning to buy a new property, you’ll need to get the title deed transferred into your name to prove that you’re the owner of the property. You’ll need the assistance of a lawyer specialising in property transfers (also known as a conveyancer) to help you transfer the title deed into your name.

You’ll only become the owner of the property when the Registrar of Deeds signs the transfer. After it’s been signed, a copy of the title deed is kept at the Deeds Office closest to you.

How long does it take? 

A search may take 30 to 60 minutes. In some of the larger offices, the copy of a deed is posted or it must be collected after a certain period of time.

To obtain a copy of a deed or document from a deeds registry, you must:

  • Go to any deeds office (deeds registries may not give out information acting on a letter or a telephone call).
  • Go to the information desk, where an official will help you complete a prescribed form and explain the procedure.
  • Request a data typist to do a search on the property, pay the required fee at the cashier’s office and take the receipt back to the official at the information desk.
  • The receipt number will be allocated to your copy of title.

Fortunately, a conveyancer will help you with the process so that you don’t have to worry about all the paperwork yourself. You should contact your legal advisor to find out more.

Reference:

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)