Monthly Archives: February 2017

Is your Business POPI Compliant?

POPI refers to South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act which seeks to regulate the Processing of Personal Information.

What is Personal Information?

Means any information relating to an identifiable, living natural person or juristic person (companies, CC’s etc.) and includes, but is not limited to:

  • Contact details: email, telephone, address etc.
  • Demographic information: age, sex, race, birth date, ethnicity etc.
  • History: employment, financial, educational, criminal, medical history
  • Biometric information: blood type etc.
  • Opinions of and about the person
  • Private correspondence etc.

What is Processing?

Processing broadly means anything done with someone’s personal Information, including collection, usage, storage, dissemination, modification or destruction (whether such processing is automated or not).

Some of the obligations under POPI:

  • Only collect information that you need for a specific purpose.
  • Apply reasonable security measures to protect it.
  • Ensure it is relevant and up to date.
  • Only hold as much as you need, and only for as long as you need it.
  • Allow the subject of the information to see it upon request.

Does POPI really apply to me or my business?

POPI applies to every South African based public and/or private body who, either alone, or in conjunction with others, determines the purpose of or means for processing personal information in South Africa.

There are cases where POPI does not apply. Exclusions include: Section 6:

  • purely household or personal activity.
  • sufficiently de-identified information.
  • some state functions including criminal prosecutions, national security etc.
  • journalism under a code of ethics.
  • judiciary functions etc.

Why should I comply with POPI?

POPI promotes transparency with regard to what information is collected and how it is to be processed. Openness increases customer trust in the organisation.

Non-compliance with the Act could expose the Responsible Party to a penalty of a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months. In certain cases, the penalty for non-compliance could be a fine and/or imprisonment of up 10 years.

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)

Cancelling a lease agreement early

If you want to end your contract early, this can only be done “in situations where the Consumer Protection Act or Rental Housing Act apply” – or if there’s a clause in the contract that allows for early cancellation, or if both parties agree to it.

If, on the other hand, one of the parties wants to cancel because the other is in breach of the contract, then certain notice periods come into effect – the first of which being, of course, that the aggrieved party is required to “give written notice for the breach to be remedied. Failure to remedy the breach in the stipulated time period, will entitle the innocent party to cancel the lease and (where relevant) claim damages suffered from the offending party.”

A tenant has the RIGHT to cancel a lease agreement, be it in the 1st month, 4th month or second-to-last month of the lease agreement. He cannot be ‘punished’ for doing this and the cancellation does not constitute a breach of the lease agreement.

 What must an agent do if a tenant decides to cancel?

  1. Obtain the cancellation in writing from the tenant.
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  2. Ensure the cancellation gives the requisite 20 business days’ notice.
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  3. Charge rental until the end of the 20 business days (even if this is not a full month’s rental).
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  4. Log on to TPN and end the lease as at the end of the 20 business days.
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  5. Keep in mind the lease now ends as at the end of that 20 business days.
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  6. Should the tenant remains in the premises a new lease MUST be signed as once cancelled, a lease cannot be revived at law. If you fail to do this, you essentially have no long-term lease in place.
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  7. Begin advertising the property immediately- the onus is on the agent/landlord to find a replacement.
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  8. Keep all invoices from the advertising as this is one of the costs you may pass along to the tenant in terms of a ‘reasonable cancellation penalty’.

 What can an agent charge the tenant that cancels early?

The idea behind this reasonable cancellation penalty is not to penalise the tenant, but to recover any actual loss suffered by the landlord as a result of the cancellation. The following cost could be applicable:

  1. Credit check costs for any prospective replacement tenants (even those who are not accepted);
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  2. Advertising costs (only the actual amounts on the invoices);
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  3. Rental – the exact number of days that the unit remains vacant after the tenant vacates.

It is important to keep in mind that all calculations of the penalty can only be made once a replacement tenant has been found. It must also be kept in mind that where a tenant cancels, for example, in month 10 or 11 of a 12-month lease, you cannot charge the tenant the full remainder of the lease as this would negate the cancellation. The principles behind cancellation penalties lie in our law of undue enrichment. A landlord/agent cannot make a financial gain or benefit off of a tenant’s cancellation.

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)

Credit Bureaus: Can I be blacklisted?

There is no such thing as a blacklist. It simply means that there are negative data on your credit report that is hosted at a Credit Bureau. This negative data can be anything, from a plain collection on one of your loans right through Judgment data or even Debt review.

This negative data will have an impact on your ability to get loans or open retail accounts as the credit provider will see this negative behaviour towards your current credit as a potential way that you will handle their loan; if granted.

A Credit bureau is an organisation that keeps a record of your credit information. Your credit record shows how you manage your debts and is used by credit providers and moneylenders to decide if you can afford to borrow money or pay back a new loan.

The National Credit Act says each credit bureau must be registered with the National Credit Regulator – who decides how your credit information can be used and who can see your credit record.

What is the role of a Credit Bureau?

When you take out your first loan with a credit provider, you have to fill in a form that asks for consumer credit information – including your credit history, financial history, education, employment and identity details. This information, and the details of the loan, is given to a credit bureau that then puts together credit report.

What are your rights regarding a Credit Bureau?

  • To be told that a credit provider intends to report negative information on you to a credit bureau 20 working days before they do so
  • To get a copy of your credit record from a credit bureau when you ask for it – you can get one free record each year but may be charged a small fee for further records
  • To challenge information kept by a credit bureau if you are unhappy with it
  • For your information to be kept confidential, and for it to be used only for the purposes that are allowed

How can your credit information be used?

  • To decide whether or not you can afford credit
  • To investigate fraud, corruption or theft
  • To consider you for employment in a position that requires trust, honesty and the handling of cash or finances

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)

Renting property to foreigners

Renting property in South Africa is a straightforward process. The country has a vast selection of rental accommodation including bachelor flats in apartment blocks, Victorian cottages, stand-alone houses with big gardens, and semi-detached units in modern townhouse complexes.

In South Africa, the right of a foreigner to purchase immovable property was restricted in the past by the Aliens Control Act. These restrictions were uplifted in 2003 by the new Immigration Act (“the Act”) which repealed the Aliens Control Act and many of its restrictive provisions and now clearly defines who a legal foreigner is and who is not. In short, a legal foreigner is a person in possession of a valid temporary residence permit or a permanent residence permit approved by the Department of Home Affairs.

The new Act makes provision for various temporary residence permits to be issued to foreigners, including amongst others:

  • A visitor’s permit
  • A work and entrepreneurial permit
  • A retired person permit

In principle, a landlord or tenant can legitimately lease or sell immovable property to any person recognised under the Act as a legal foreigner.

That said, foreigners working in South Africa with a legal work permit, are not regarded as “non-residents” by the South African Reserve Bank. They are considered to be residents for the duration of the period of their work permit and are therefore not restricted to a loan of only 50% of the purchase price.

It is also important to take note that the Act criminalizes the letting or selling of immovable property to an illegal foreigner by making this transaction equivalent to the aiding and abetting of an illegal foreigner and is such an act classified as a criminal offence in terms of the Act.

In conclusion, a legal foreigner may let or buy immovable property in South Africa, provided that he is the holder of either a legal temporary residence permit or a permanent residence permit approved by the Department of Home Affairs. Ensure that you enquire from your potential tenant or purchaser whether they are legally present in South Africa and obtain the necessary proof from them before entering into any transaction with a foreigner. Also, take account of the restrictions on local financing, particularly where the procurement of financing is a condition precedent to the agreement.

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)