Category Archives: Contract

Do’s and don’ts of suretyship

A4_bOn 29 May 2015, in the case of Dormell Properties 282 CC v Bamberger[1], the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) set out the importance of, firstly, expressly pleading a suretyship clause in a plaintiff’s particulars of claim and, secondly, ensuring that the contract to which a deed of suretyship is annexed is duly signed by all parties thereto.

In the case of Dormell Properties 282 CC v Bamberger[2] (Dormell case) there were two agreements of importance. The first agreement was a written offer to lease agreement concluded between Dormell and Edulyn, duly represented by Bamberger in his capacity as sole director, in terms of which Bamberger undertook to bind himself as surety for Edulyn’s obligations under a second agreement, being the agreement of lease.[3]

The first agreement was properly signed by the parties; however, the agreement of lease was only signed by Bamberger. Annexed to the agreement of lease was a deed of suretyship which Bamberger signed. The deed of suretyship and agreement of lease were annexed to Dormell’s particulars of claim as if this suretyship was the instrument that bound Bamberger as surety and co-principal debtor for the fulfilment of the obligations of Edulyn.[4]

In the court a quo, Savage AJ found that ‘a contract of suretyship requires a valid principal obligation with someone other than the surety as debtor and the liability of the surety does not arise until this principal obligation has been contracted (Caney [C F Forsyth and J T Pretorius Caney’s The Law of Suretyship in South Africa 6 ed (2010)] at 47)’.[5] In the SCA the appellant conceded that no express reference to the first suretyship clause was made in the particulars of claim, but argued, inter alia, that the omission caused no prejudice to Bamberger.[6]

Dormell’s cause of action was based on the deed of suretyship attached to the agreement of lease and not on the suretyship clause in the first agreement. To seek to change this now would amount to an amendment of the particulars of claim and the advancing of a case which was not initially pleaded. Bamberger therefore contended that he was not given the opportunity to raise any defence which he could have raised to the suretyship clause.[7]

The SCA set out that ‘the purpose of pleadings is to define the issues for the parties and the court. Pleadings must set out the cause of action in clear and unequivocal terms to enable the opponent to know exactly what case to meet. Once a party has pinned its colours to the mast it is impermissible at a later stage to change those colours.’[8] Furthermore the court found that Dormell should have expressly alleged a valid contract of suretyship (i.e. that the terms of the deed of suretyship were embodied in a written document signed by or on behalf of the surety which identified the creditor, the surety and the principal debtor). Dormell had to allege the cause of the debt in respect of which the defendant undertook liability as well as the actual indebtedness of the principal debtor.[9]

In the Dormell case the deed of suretyship was invalid and enforceable because it was annexed to an agreement of lease which wasn’t signed by Dormell, and therefore the suretyship was in respect of a non-existent obligation. Dormell conceded that the suretyship pleaded was invalid, but argued that Bamberger would not suffer any prejudice if Dormell was allowed to rely on the suretyship in the first agreement instead. The court found that although it does have discretion regarding keeping parties strictly to their pleadings, it does not agree that this discretion reaches as far as to place a party in the disadvantageous position of not being permitted to raise any legal defence.[10]

In deciding the above, the court looked at whether Bamberger would have conducted his case materially differently, had Dormell’s case been pleaded properly. The court found that he would have, in that he would have been in the position to raise the defence of non-excussion (i.e. that Dormell should have first claimed the outstanding amounts owed from Edulyn and only if they could not pay this amount, should Dormell have claimed from Bamberger).[11] He had not raised this defence in his plea or at the trial because the deed of suretyship annexed to the agreement of lease in terms of which he had waived the defence of non-excussion (which was not signed by Dormell) was relied upon.[12]

The SCA therefore found that Bamberger would suffer prejudice if it were to allow Dormell to rely on the suretyship clause in the first agreement which was not relied upon in the particulars of claim.[13] It is therefore crucial to, firstly, expressly plead the details of a valid suretyship clause in a plaintiff’s particulars of claim and, secondly, to ensure that the contract to which a deed of suretyship is annexed is duly signed by all parties thereto. If you do not do so you may find yourself in a situation where the courts will not allow you to enforce a valid suretyship.

[1] (20191/14) [2015] ZASCA 89 (29 May 2015)

[2] (20191/14) [2015] ZASCA 89 (29 May 2015)

[3] ibid para 1-3

[4] ibid para 5

[5] Dormell Properties 282 CC v Bamberger (20191/14) [2015] ZASCA 89 (29 May 2015) para 8

[6] ibid para 8

[7] ibid para 10

[8] ibid para 11

[9] ibid para 12

[10] Dormell Properties 282 CC v Bamberger (20191/14) [2015] ZASCA 89 (29 May 2015) para 15

[11] ibid para 19

[12] ibid para 20

[13] ibid para 21

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)

Contracting with minors in a digital context

A3_bIn this article, we examine whether contracts entered online by minors, using their parents’ credit cards, are legally binding in the specific context of social media such as Facebook.

Both Common law and legislation deal with the capacity of minors who enter into different types of contracts. According to the Children’s Act, 38 of 2005 a minor is a person between the ages of seven and 18 years. In terms of common law a minor does not have sufficient capacity to incur binding obligations under a contract and must obtain the assistance or consent of their guardian to do so. This consent can be given before the contract is concluded or thereafter, in which case it is seen as ratification of the contract. There are exceptions to this rule, which may be found in various pieces of legislation as well as in common law, such as contracts where the minor obtains only rights and no duties (e.g. a donation).

A minor can escape liability even when they have been bound in terms of the contract (i.e. where the guardian has assisted the minor in the conclusion of the contract, consented to or ratified the contract). This can be done where the contract was prejudicial to him or her at the time that it was concluded. The court may then, on application, set the contract aside and order that each party be placed in the same position as what they were in before the contract had been concluded.

Facebook is currently involved in an ongoing class-action lawsuit. In this lawsuit, a class of parents in America are pressing their claim that Facebook should change how it handles online transactions by minors.

Attorneys for the parents in the above case note that it is important that Facebook has knowledge of a user’s actual age but still treats children the same as adult users when it comes to taking their money.

One of the biggest issues here is that reciprocal performance, being the payment of money via credit or debit card and the child obtaining credits, takes place almost immediately. Therefore, if the parent were to be refunded, the minor would be unjustifiably enriched using the credits.

The system, that Facebook currently employs, is therefore problematic since it takes advantage of children who may not fully understand the contracts that they are entering into when they purchase game credits. Furthermore, should the parents be immediately refunded in the current system, it may lead to situations where the parent consents to the purchases and then after the child obtains the enjoyment from the credits, request that their accounts be credited due to a ‘lack of consent’.

It is therefore clear that this system of payment should be changed. We should obtain clarity on how to deal with this in South Africa once the class-action suit in America has been concluded and a solution has been reached. At present, it seems that there will be no alternative for parents whose children overspend or use their credit or debit cards, without permission. If your child has, a Facebook gaming habit it is a good idea to keep a close eye on your wallet until we have clarity on the recourse available to parents who find themselves in this situation.

Bibliography

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)

Basiese registrasies en nakoming vir besighede

A2_b_newVir enige besigheid wat in Suid-Afrika sake doen, is dit ‘n uitdaging om op die hoogte te bly van alle vereiste registrasies en nakoming wat deur wetgewing en ander regulering voorgeskryf word. Hier volg ‘n opsomming van die mees algemene registrasies en nakoming wat op die meeste besighede van toepassing is.

  1. Jaarlikse opgawes en jaargelde (Maatskappye): Enige maatskappy wat by die CIPC geregistreer wil bly, moet jaarliks gedurende die maatskappy se verjaardagmaand ‘n opgawe van inligting by die CIPC indien en ook die gepaardgaande jaargeld betaal. (cipc.co.za)
  1. Inkomstebelasting: Enige onderneming wat handel dryf moet by die Suid-Afrikaanse Inkomstediens (SAID) as ‘n belastingbetaler registreer, hetsy as individu/eenmansaak, maatskappy, trust, of enige ander persoon. Jaarliks moet hierdie onderneming ‘n inkomstebelastingopgawe (IB12 of IB14) voltooi en indien. Verder moet daar elke ses maande voorlopige belasting bereken en ‘n opgawe (IRP6) ingedien word, en indien nodig, moet enige verskuldigde bedrag ook betaal word. Nie-nakoming kan aansienlike boetes tot gevolg hê. (sars.gov.za)
  1. Belasting op Toegevoegde Waarde (BTW): Indien die jaarlikse omset van die onderneming R1 miljoen sal oorskry, moet die onderneming vir BTW registreer. ‘n Vrywillige registrasie kan gedoen word indien die omset meer as R50 000 per jaar sal wees. BTW-opgawes moet gewoonlik elke twee maande ingedien word en, indien nodig, moet enige verskuldigde bedrag ook betaal word. (sars.gov.za)
  1. Werkloosheidsversekering: Indien ‘n onderneming werknemers in diens het, moet die onderneming as werkgewer vir werkloosheidsversekering registreer. Maandelikse opgawes vir betaling moet ingedien word. ‘n Bedrag gelykstaande aan een persent van die salarisse van werknemers is deur die werkgewer betaalbaar, en ‘n verdere een persent deur die werknemer. (labour.gov.za)
  1. Werknemersbelasting: Indien enige van die werknemers van ‘n onderneming se vergoeding die perk in die Belastingwet oorskry, moet die onderneming as werkgewer vir LBS (lopende betaalstelsel) registreer. Die belasting moet maandeliks van sodanige werknemers se vergoeding afgetrek word en aan die SAID oorbetaal word tesame met die indiening van die nodige opgawes. Daar moet ook twee keer per jaar ‘n LBS-rekonsiliasie (IRP501) opgestel en by die SAID ingedien word. Jaarliks moet daar saam met die LBS-rekonsiliasie ook IRP5-sertifikate vir alle werknemers uitgemaak word. (sars.gov.za)
    1. Vaardigheidsontwikkelingsheffing: Indien die totale jaarlikse salarisrekening van die onderneming R500 000 oorskry, of indien die onderneming meer as 50 werknemers het, moet die onderneming ook vir die vaardigheidsontwikkelingsheffing (SDL) registreer, en moet daar ook maandeliks opgawes ingedien en die nodige heffing betaal word. (labour.gov.za / www.sars.gov.za)
  1. Vergoedingskommissaris: Enige onderneming wat werknemers in diens het, ongeag die vergoeding wat vir sodanige werknemers betaal word, moet as werkgewer vir ongevalleversekering by die Departement van Arbeid registreer. Die onderneming moet jaarliks ‘n opgawe by die departement indien en word dan aangeslaan teen ‘n persentasie van die totale salarisrekening van die onderneming. Werknemers wat aan diens beseer word, kan dan vergoeding van hierdie fonds eis. (labour.gov.za)
  1. Gelyke Indiensneming: ‘n Onderneming wat meer as 50 werknemers in diens het, of wat die gestelde drempel van jaarlikse omset vir die spesifieke sektor waarin dit handel dryf, oorskry, moet elke twee jaar ‘n gelyke indiensnemingsplan opstel en by die Departement van Arbeid indien. (labour.gov.za)

Hierdie artikel is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet nie gebruik of staatgemaak word op as professionele advies nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of vir enige verlies of skade wat voortspruit uit vertroue op enige inligting hierin nie. Kontak atyd jou regsadviseur vir spesifieke en gedetailleerde advies.

What does a suspensive condition in a contract really mean?

A2bMost people that have bought a property may have noticed a clause dealing with suspensive conditions in the contract of sale. Usually these conditions relate to deposits that need to be paid, financing that has to be procured and/or another property that needs to be sold before the sale can be confirmed. The interpretation appears straightforward enough – meet the requirements, and the contract is valid; fail to meet the requirements and the contract is invalid. But is it really that straightforward? And what are the consequences of non-compliance?
In layman’s terms a condition contained in a contract can be described as a provision that defers the obligation(s) of a party in the contract to the occurrence of some future uncertain event. This is usually termed a ‘suspensive condition’ or a ‘condition precedent’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wat beteken ʼn opskortende voorwaarde in ‘n kontrak?

Meeste mense wat ‘n eiendom gekoop het sou opgemerk het dat die kontrak ‘n klousule bevat wat oor opskortende voorwaardes handel. Gewoonlik hou hierdie voorwaardes verband met deposito’s wat betaal moet word, finansiering wat verkry moet word of ‘n ander eiendom wat eers verkoop moet word voordat die huidige kontrak bevestig kan word. Die verduideliking hiervan klink eenvoudig genoeg – sodra daar aan al die vereiste voldoen is, is die kontrak geldig, in daar nie aan die vereiste voldoen word nie, dan is die kontrak ongeldig. Die vraag ontstaan egter of die proses werklik so eenvoudig is as wat dit klink. En wat is die gevolge indien jy nie aan die vereistes van die kontrak voldoen nie?

‘n Voorwaarde in ‘n kontrak kan in leketaal beskryf word as ‘n bepaling wat die verpligtinge van ‘n party, soos uiteengesit in die kontrak, uitstel tot en met die voorkoms van ʼn toekomstige onsekere gebeurtenis. Dit word gewoonlik ‘n opskortende voorwaarde genoem.

Volgens wet kan ‘n opskortende voorwaarde beskryf word as ‘n bepaling wat die werking of effek van een of sommige of al die verpligtinge in ʼn kontrak opskort tot tyd en wyl daar aan die voorwaarde voldoen is. As daar nie aan die voorwaarde voldoen word nie sal die kontrak nie bekragtig word nie. Sodra daar aan die voorwaarde voldoen is, tree die kontrak en die gemeenskaplike regte en verpligtinge van die partye inwerking. Die datum waarop die kontrak in werking tree is dan vanaf die datum van die ondertekening van die ooreenkoms, en nie die datum van die vervulling van die voorwaarde nie.OO

Die Appèlhof het onlangs bevestig dat wanneer daar nie betyds aan die opskortende voorwaarde voldoen word nie, verval die kontrak en die partye word nie daardeur gebind deur dit, selfs al het een party hul voorwaarde ten volle uitgevoer.

In die saak van Africast (Edms) Beperk v Pangbourne Properties Beperk het die partye ‘n kontrak vir die ontwikkeling van kommersiële eiendom in ‘n gebied in Gauteng aangegaan. Een van die opskortende voorwaardes in die kontrak was dat Pangbourne se raad van direkteure die kontrak skriftelik binne sewe werksdae vanaf die sluitingsdatum moes goedkeur en aan Africast voorlê. Die kontrak is op 11 April 2007 onderteken en Pangbourne se direkteure het die kontrak op 20 April 2007 goedgekeur. Pangbourne het die skriftelike goedkeuring egter eers op 25 April 2007 aan Africast verskaf, wat dus na die vereiste sewe dae periode was. Pangbourne het na 18 maande besluit dat aangesien die opskortende voorwaarde nie nagekom is binne die vasgestelde tydperk nie, was hulle nie kontraktueel gebonde nie en het hulle dus geweier om die vereiste waarborge te lewer. Op daardie stadium het Africast reeds geboue opgerig, soos aangedui in die stipulasies van die ooreenkoms.

Die Hof het Pangbourne se siening bevestig, aangesien daar nie betyds aan die opskortende voorwaarde in die kontrak voldoen is nie, het geen kontrak tot stand gekom nie en die kontrak het verval weens nievoldoening aan die opskortende voorwaarde. Die Hof het tot die gevolgtrekking gekom ondanks die feit dat beide partye vir 18 maande in terme van stipulasies in die ooreenkoms opgetree het.

Opskortende voorwaardes word meestal in kontrakte aangetref wat betrekking het tot die verkoop van onroerende eiendomme, soos huise, woonstelle, plotte of plase. Die voorwaardes wat algemeen in die kontrakte te vinde is, is dat die verkoop van die eiendom onderhewig is daaraan dat die koper ‘n verband van ‘n finansiële instelling moet kry en/of dat die verkoop daaraan onderhewig is dat die koper sy bestaande eiendom binne ‘n vasgestelde tyd moet verkoop.

Dit is belangrik om in ag te neem dat opskortende voorwaardes gewoonlik in ‘n kontrak ingesluit word tot die voordeel van een van die betrokke party. In die bogenoemde scenario is die opskortende voorwaardes ingesluit vir die beskerming van die koper. Indien die koper nie daartoe in staat is om ‘n verband te verkry of sy bestaande eiendom binne die vereiste tyd te verkoop nie, is die kontrak nie meer van krag of effek en die koper sal nie gebonde wees aan die terme en voorwaardes van die kontrak nie. Wanneer daar nie aan die opskortende voorwaarde voldoen word nie, word die kontrak nietig verklaar en indien die partye steeds met die transaksie wil voort gaan moet ʼn ‘n nuwe kontrak aangegaan moet word.

Indien ‘n opskortende voorwaarde ingesluit is tot die voordeel van ‘n bepaalde party, kan daar voor die vasgestelde tyd vir die vervulling van die opskortende voorwaarde afstand gedoen word van die opskortende voorwaarde deur die party tot wie se voordeel die voorwaarde ingesluit is. Die kontrak is dan onvoorwaardelik en beide die koper en die verkoper sal kontraktueel gebind wees aan die bepalings van die kontrak.

Dit voordelig om versigtig te wees wanneer u ‘n kontrak wat onderworpe is aan ‘n opskortende voorwaarde aangaan. Wees bewus van die vasgestelde tyd vir die nakoming, tot wie se voordeel die voorwaardes bygevoeg is en die bewys wat gelewer moet word om te bevestig dat daar aan die vereistes voldoen is. Indien nodig, sorg dat u regsadvies inwin alvorens die kontrak onderteken word en maak gebruik van ʼn regsadviseur voordat u afstand doen van enige voorwaardes wat bygevoeg is tot u eie voordeel.

Hierdie artikel is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet nie gebruik of staatgemaak word op as professionele advies nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of vir enige verlies of skade wat voortspruit uit vertroue op enige inligting hierin nie. Kontak atyd jou regsadviseur vir spesifieke en gedetailleerde advies.