Author: My Lawyer (page 1 of 17)

SECTIONAL TILES: 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.

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

References:

http://www.angor.co.za/news/understanding-sectional-title-terminology-body-corporate/

http://www.sectionaltitlecentre.co.za/faqs.aspx

http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/568/161017.html

 

WHAT IF YOU’VE BEEN A VICTIM OF CYBERCRIME?

In the modern age, more and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity of the internet to commit a diverse range of criminal activities that know no borders, either physical or virtual, and cause serious harm to victims worldwide.

In December 2016, cabinet gave the green light for a Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill that has sparked criticism over its potential to curb a free internet. Cabinet said the bill is about, “combatting cybercrime, establishing capacity to deal with cybersecurity and protecting critical information infrastructures”.

What is cybercrime?

Cybercrime takes many different forms, such as using financial information to commit an offence, unlawful interception of data, computer related forgery, extortion, terrorist activity and the distribution of ‘harmful’ data messages.

Hackers can get access to your computer by simply sending you an e-mail that automatically causes malware software to download as you open the mail. The hacker then has full access to your computer and the data in it and can lock you out. So, what should you do if you have been a victim of cybercrime?

  1. Disconnect: If you’re a victim of a hack, then you should disconnect from the Internet immediately. If you’re connected via Wi-Fi, phone or Ethernet cable, you need to disable the connection as soon as possible.
  2. Scan your PC: It’s a good idea to have antivirus software to scan your computer.
  3. Create a backup: Create regular backups of your files and folders.
  4. Reinstall your operating system: Depending on the severity of the attack, it might be necessary to reinstall the operating system of your computer.

 Online Fraud

If you’ve been a victim of online fraud, such as your credit card information being stolen, then try the following:

  1. Close all accounts: If you find that you are the victim of online fraud or identity theft, the first thing you should do is close all affected accounts immediately.
  2. Contact your bank: By contacting your bank, you can notify them regarding the fraud and its source. They can also assist you in recovering any stolen finances and issuing new cards.

The new Cyber and Security Bill creates about 50 new offences for crimes such as hacking, using financial information to commit an offence, unlawful interception of data, computer related forgery, extortion, terrorist activity and distribution of ‘harmful’ data messages. Hopefully, this will help curb the growth of illicit online activities.

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

References:

https://za.norton.com/victim/article

http://www.fin24.com/Tech/News/controversial-cybersecurity-bill-gets-cabinet-approval-20161212

http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/dont-be-a-victim-of-cyber-crime-20160919

HOW AND WHEN TO USE THE SMALL CLAIMS COURT

The small claims court (SCC) is for anyone who wants to institute a minor civil claim against someone else. You can also claim against companies and associations. However, the claims are limited to amounts that are less than R15 000. This excludes the State, meaning a person cannot make a claim against a local municipality, for example. Claims made in the SCC are done quickly and cheaply without having to use an attorney and anyone, except juristic persons, are allowed to use them.

Read more about the SCC on The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s website: justice.gov.za

Where do I start?

If you are going to institute a claim against someone else, be smart about it. Don’t make a claim against someone who you know has no money to pay you back, such as an unemployed person.

Before running to the court to make a claim, first contact the person you intend to claim from and ask them to fulfil your request. Let them know you are planning on going to the court to make a claim against them if they don’t comply.

Perhaps the person is not interested in your claim, then send them a written demand letter. The letter should set out the details of the claim, including the amount. Give them at least 14 days from the day of receiving your letter to settle your claim.  Make sure they get an actual physical copy of the letter. This can be posted to them, or you can simply take it to them directly.

So 14 days has passed and they didn’t respond. Now you can go to the clerk of the court with documents to institute your claim. Firstly, you will need proof that you delivered the letter of demand. This can be a post office slip, for example.  You will also need a contract or document that gives a bases for your claim. Your claims can’t just be based on thin air. Lastly, provide the court with all the details of the person you’re claiming from, such as name, address and phone number.

The summons

The clerk of the court will help you in drawing up the summons.  Once the summons is complete a hearing will also be scheduled. You then have to serve the summons to the opposing party (defendant) in person and get them to sign it. Don’t be surprised if they are visibly upset. Remember to make copies of all the documents and keep them. Also give copies to the defendant. The original documents must be handed over to the clerk of the court before the day of the hearing. This information will be kept in the court file.

After they receive the summons, the defendant may deliver a plea (written statement) to the clerk of the court. They may also issue a counterclaim. Regardless of whether the defended institutes a plea or counterclaim, they still have to attend the hearing. On the other hand, the defendant may decide to fulfil your claim before the hearing, you should then issue a written receipt and let the clerk of the court know that you won’t be continuing with the case.

Going to the hearing

You and the defendant must appear in court in person, attorneys or lawyers are not necessary. Remember to bring along all the documents on which your claim is based, there’s no point in showing up empty-handed. If you have witnesses, make sure they also come with you to the hearing. The SCC proceedings are basic and straight-forward. As mentioned, no attorneys are involved. As the proceedings begin, answer any questions that the commissioner of the court asks you. If you want and the commissioner agrees, then you can direct questions to the defendant. 

The final judgment

After the proceedings have been completed, the court will make a judgement, which is final. There may, however, be some grounds for review. If the judgement is against you, then you should settle any order for costs. Since the court judgement is final, you have to abide by it. You can’t change your mind afterwards.

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)

WHO PAYS FOR THE CHILD AFTER DIVORCE?

When couples divorce it’s often the children that feel the brunt of it. Sometimes it’s the other person in the relationship that suffers economically. Hence the reason there’s a legal duty towards maintenance after divorce, which is an obligation to provide for another person.

A child of a divorced couple, for example, may need help with housing, food, education and medical care. Maintenance could also be understood as providing the means for the person to have the necessary essentials. Maintenance duties is based on factors such as blood relationship, adoption, or that two people are/were married to each other.

This duty is also referred to as ‘the duty to maintain’ or ‘the duty to support’. 

Which parent supports the child?

If a couple has decided on getting divorced, then the child has to be supported by both the parents, regardless if they’re living together or whether or not the child was adopted. In some cases, the grandparents are also responsible for the child’s maintenance, even if the parents weren’t married. This usually happens if the parents are unable to support the child.

What if the child is living with one parent?

In scenarios where the child is living with one of the parents, it is still the duty of the other parent to also contribute to the maintenance of the child. Many people in South Africa, especially women, face the reality of an ex-spouse who doesn’t live with the child and doesn’t want to pay maintenance. However, there is no legal way out of a parent contributing to a child’s maintenance, even if one of the parents re-marries.

What if you can’t find your non-paying ex-spouse?

If one of the child’s parents refuses to pay and doesn’t make their whereabouts known, then it is the responsibility of the state to claim maintenance from the unpaying parent. Maintenance investigators will try solve the issue and trace the person who is responsible for maintenance.

When does the maintenance end?

Until a child reaches the age of 18, his/her parents or another person (guardian) will have the parental rights and responsibilities for the child. This includes the maintenance of the child. So both the divorced parents of a child will have to contribute to the caring and maintenance of the child at least until he/she becomes an adult.

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

References:

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

Justice.gov.za. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Family Law, Maintenance. [online] Available at: http://www.justice.gov.za/vg/children/ [Accessed 13/05/2016].

THE BENEFITS OF CREATING A TRUST

Trusts are well-known to facilitate effective estate planning and continuity planning strategies. That said, setting up a trust – whether an inter vivos (between the living) or a testamentary (created in a will) − should be carefully considered and not just implemented blindly. 

The difference between testamentary and inter vivos trusts

  1. A testamentary trust is established when a person (the founder) makes provision for establishing a trust in their will. The trust does not come into existence until the founder dies.
  2. An inter vivos trust is set up between the living. In other words, property is transferred before death to the trust by its founder and managed by the trustees for the benefit of another person or persons.

The death benefits of creating an inter vivos trust exceeds the cost – both in time and money. According to The Estate Duty Act, upon death, a duty is levied against your estate known as estate duty. The nett value of any estate will be determined by deducting all liabilities from your assets of your estate, both real and deemed.

Should you create a testamentary trust, upon death the assets are in your name and will need to be transferred to the trust posthumously, meaning all assets are taken into account when assessing the duty payable.

Advantages

Taking the above into account, here are some benefits you could experience from creating a trust:

  1. Reducing estate duty: Inter vivos trusts can be used to minimise estate duty. No estate duty should be payable on assets owned by the trust as a trust does not die.
  2. Protection against creditors: As the trust’s assets are not owned by the beneficiaries, creditors do not have a claim on the assets. This advantage is especially important for people who could be exposed to potential liability. Companies as well as individuals are able to transfer assets into trusts.
  3. Efficient succession: Since trusts never die, beneficiaries will be able to continue enjoying the assets if one beneficiary were to pass away. 

Disadvantages

Despite the advantages, there are also some disadvantages of having a trust. They include the following:

  1. Costs: The costs of setting up a trust can be high. If assets are transferred into the trust, then transfer duty needs to also be paid.
  2. Duties of trustees: Trustees could find themselves personally liable for losses suffered by the trust if it can be proven that they did not act with care, diligence and skill according to Section 9 of the Trust Property Control Act.

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

References:

 

https://www.iprotect.co.za/articals-trust-info/article-arcives/why-an-intervivos-trust-as-opposed-to-a-testamentary-trust.html

http://www.entrepreneurmag.co.za/advice/starting-a-business/start-up-advice/should-i-set-up-a-trust/

https://www.findanattorney.co.za/content_inter-vivos-trust

EMPLOYERS BEWARE: DISMISSAL FOR POOR PERFORMANCE COULD BACKFIRE

It is reasonable to want to dismiss an employee for not performing on the job, or failing to meet a specific target. However, Employer’s should ensure that the targets they set are actually achievable for the employee. If not, they could be found at fault for dismissing an employee who failed to achieve unreasonable targets.

Damelin (Pty) Ltd vs Parkinson

In a recent judgement, delivered in January 2017, tertiary education company Damelin (Pty) Ltd, hired Parkinson as the general manager of the Boksburg campus. Parkinson’s employment contract stated that, ‟continued nonattainment of performance goals may result in the termination of employment.”

When Parkinson took up his position in January 2011, the campus had 352 enrolled students of which 168 were first-year students. His target for 2012, which was the national target, was to enrol 420 first year students by February 2012. Andrew Pienaar, the national sales director, estimated that there were 15 000 grade 12 learners in the catchment area the Boksburg campus. Parkinson queried the target, saying that his team contacted all the schools in the area and there were only 12 735 grade 12 learners in his area. He claimed that unrealistic numbers give rise to unrealistic targets, and that it was like being set up to fail.

The actual enrolment of first-year students for the Boksburg campus for 2012 was 117 first year students. In 2011, the figure had been 168. Parkinson had not met the target. A disciplinary inquiry was convened. Parkinson was charged with poor work performance relating to his failure to reach sales targets and was dismissed.

Unhappy with his dismissal, Parkinson and his union went to the CCMA. The commissioner determined that the dismissal was the appropriate sanction. Still dissatisfied, Parkinson then went to court. The court determined that dismissal could only be considered as a fourth step. The court set aside the award and reinstated Parkinson saying that the informal letters written to Parkinson could not be considered warnings, and that he was not given an appropriate amount of time to reach his targets.

Conclusion

Setting unrealistic expectations on employees could set them up for failure. In these circumstances, dismissal would not be appropriate. It is therefore important that employers ensure the standards they set for their employees are achievable within a reasonable amount of time.

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

References:

Case no: JA 48/15

HOW CAN AN UNMARRIED FATHER OBTAIN PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES?

Under the old dispensation, where parties were divorced, one parent (usually the mother) would usually be awarded custody of a minor child and the other parent (usually the father) would be entitled to visitation rights.

The custodian parent would be vested with making all of the day-to-day decisions of the minor child including which school the child would attend, what religion the child would practice, where the child would reside and so on.

The parents now have joint parental responsibilities and rights, and all major decisions relating to the minor child need to be taken by the parties jointly, which is a far healthier situation for the child.

  • If the unmarried father only wants to apply for care and/or contact, he can do so in the Children’s Court.
  • If the unmarried father wants to apply for guardianship, an application must be made in the High Court.
  • If the unmarried father wants to apply for care, contact and guardianship, he must bring the application in the High Court.

An unmarried biological father may ask a court of law to grant him full parental responsibilities if he:

  • at the time of the child’s birth, is living with the mother in a permanent life partnership, or
  • consents to be identified as the child’s father, or
  • successfully applies to be identified as the child’s father, or
  • pays damages in terms of Customary Law, or
  • contributes or has tried to contribute to the child’s maintenance and upbringing for a reasonable period.

What factors will the court take into account when considering an application for parental rights and responsibilities?

  • The best interests of the child.
  • The relationship between the unmarried father and the child.
  • The relationship between any other person and the child, such as the mother.
  • The degree of commitment the unmarried father has shown towards the child.
  • Whether the unmarried father has contributed or attempted to contribute to the maintenance of the child.
  • Any other factor the court considers to be relevant, such as:
    • whether the unmarried father has a history of violence towards children;
    • the effect of separating the child from his/her mother; or
    • the child’s attitude towards the relief sought in the application.

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

References:

https://www.legalwise.co.za/help-yourself/quicklaw-guides/unwed-father/

http://www.parent24.com/Family/Finance_Legal/Unmarried-Know-your-rights-20150826

THE VALIDITY OF TAX INVOICES – IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY

The audits of Value-Added Tax (VAT) returns by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), have increased the focus on the validity of tax invoices for the purposes of VAT.

A VAT vendor submitting VAT returns is responsible for ensuring that all invoices included in the returns comply with the relevant legislation. If valid tax invoices cannot be provided at the time of a VAT audit, the vendor may lose up to 100% of the input tax being claimed on the invoice, even if an amended valid invoice can be provided subsequent to the audit. Furthermore, serious penalties, interest and other consequences may be imposed on the VAT vendor for errors, intentional omissions and fraud.

The requirements

Section 20 of the Value-Added Tax Act, no 89 of 1991, together with the VAT404 Guide for Vendors as updated in March 2012, sets out the requirements for a valid tax invoice.

A VAT vendor must issue a tax invoice within 21 days of the supply having been made where the consideration for the supply exceeds R50, whether the purchaser has requested this or not. If the consideration for the supply is R50 or less, a tax invoice is not required. However, a document such as a till slip or sales docket indicating the VAT charged by the supplier, will be required to verify the input tax.

The requirements for tax invoices of which the consideration or taxable supply is more than R5 000 are:

  1. the words “tax invoice” should be displayed;
  2. name, physical address and VAT registration number of the supplier name, physical; address and VAT registration number of the recipient;
  3. original serial number of the tax invoice;
  4. the date of issue of the tax invoice;
  5. full and proper description of the goods sold and / or services rendered;
  6. quantity or volume of goods and / or services supplied; and
  7. total amount of the invoice and VAT amount in South African currency (except for certain zero-rated supplies).

The requirements for tax invoices of less than R5 000 are:

  1. the words “tax invoice” should be displayed;
  2. name, physical address and VAT registration number of the supplier;
  3. original serial number of the tax invoice;
  4. the date of issue of the tax invoice;
  5. full and proper description of the goods sold and / or services rendered;
  6. total amount of the invoice and VAT amount in South African currency (except for certain zero-rated supplies).

Second-hand goods

In the case of second-hand goods purchased from a non-vendor, the purchaser has to record the following information:

  1. name, address and identity number of the supplier, confirmed by the person’s identity document or passport. (If the value of the supply is equal to or greater than R1 000, a copy of this document must be retained by the purchaser. If the non-vendor is a juristic person, a letterhead or similar document stating the name and registration number of the juristic person is required);
  2. date of acquisition;
  3. quantity or volume of goods;
  4. description of the goods;
  5. total consideration paid for the supply; and
  6. declaration by the supplier stating that the supply is not a taxable supply.

Conclusion 

If a vendor fails to deduct an input tax in respect of a particular tax period, that input tax may be deducted in a later tax period, but limited to a period of five years from the date that the particular supply was made. However, when a vendor becomes aware of an output tax not declared in the relevant period, a corrected VAT return for that specific period should be submitted.  It is not acceptable to declare the output tax in the next period and SARS may impose penalties and interest on the output VAT omitted.

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)

AUTHENTICATING DOCUMENTS FOR USE OUTSIDE SA

If you need to use official South African documents in another country, it is necessary that they are legalised for use abroad. This can be for any number of reasons, such as legalising university degrees for a job in another country.

What is legalisation?

Legalising documents means that official (public) documents executed within South Africa for use outside the country are affixed, sealed and signed either with an Apostille Certificate (where countries are party to The Hague Convention) or with a Certificate of Authentication (where countries are not party to The Hague Convention).

  • Legalisationbasically means the process followed by which the signature and seal on an official (public) document is verified.

The process involved in signing/executing documents:

If a country is part of The Hague Convention, the following process applies:

  • The documents are signed and/or executed in the presence of a Notary Public. The Notary Public will attach the Certificate of Authentication to the documents which must bear his signature, stamp and seal.
  • The documents are then forwarded by the Notary Public to the High Court in the area in which the Notary Public practices. The Court will then attach an Apostille Certificate authenticating the Notary Public’s signature.

There are certain documents that the High Court will not Apostille/Authenticate and must be sent to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), which is based in Pretoria. For example:

  • All Home Affairs documents; and
  • Police Clearance Certificates.

If a country is not part of The Hague Convention, the following process applies:

  • The documents are signed and/or executed in the presence of a Notary Public. The Notary Public will attach the Certificate of Authentication to the documents which must bear his signature, stamp and seal.
  • The documents are then forwarded by the Notary Public to The High Court in the area in which the Notary Public practices. The Court will then attach an Apostille Certificate authenticating the Notary Public’s signature.
  • Documents are then submitted to the Legalisation Section at DIRCO to be legalised.
  • Once legalised by DIRCO the documents are then forwarded to the Embassy/Consulate of the country in which they are intended to be used for further authentication.

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

References:

http://www.dirco.gov.za/consular/legalisation.htm

http://www.dingleymarshall.co.za/getting-docs-row-authenticate-documents-south-africa/

EMAIL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM? GET IT BEFORE IT GETS YOU

If your company uses emails to communicate with clients, then it’s not enough to just rely on traditional ways of managing email, such as backing up emails periodically. There needs to be a well-equipped email management system in place that will keep your business safe.

The key point that relates to the heavy use of email, is the maintenance of the integrity of the email, and being able to prove that integrity. Unfortunately, you can’t simply do nothing and leave your email system as is and hope for the best. Firstly, it is important to understand the legal requirements. This includes the Electronic Communications and Transaction Act, 2002, or the ECT Act.

The ECT Act provides that information is not without legal force and effect simply because it is in electronic form. These are some of the rules set out by the ECT Act regarding electronic communications.

  1. An electronic document must be captured, retained and retrievable.
  2. Electronic documents must be accessible so as to be useable for subsequent reference, this includes the origin, destination, date and time it was sent or received.
  3. If a signature is required, it must be accompanied by an authentication service.

So what should you do?

All companies who wish to comply with the regulations should implement an effective email management system. The core requirements of a good email management system are as follows:

  1. The ability to monitor and intercept email;
  2. Effective capturing of all email;
  3. Cost effective storage of all email and efficient discarding of email that has lost its business value or is no longer required for legal or regulatory or compliance;
  4. Efficient and cost effective restoration of email;
  5. The ability to maintain the integrity of email and the contents thereof; and
  6. The ability to audit email use in order to be able to prove integrity.

Although it seems like a trivial matter, it is worthwhile to implement an email management system in your company. It will help protect your business in the event that you need a record of communication due to an incident or contract dispute. New regulations introduced by POPI will also make this a necessary part of how your company handles information.

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)

Reference:

The Electronic Communications and Transaction Act, 2002

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