Category: Property Law (page 1 of 3)

UNLAWFULLY EVICTED? HERE’S A PIECE OF PIE

Unless the sheriff of the court has evicted you, you should remain right where you are. If anyone else carries out an eviction, it constitutes as unlawful according to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land (PIE) Act.

Regarding the eviction process, the PIE Act stipulates this:

  • Certain procedures must be followed
  • Notice of the intention of getting a court order must be given to the tenant
  • The landowner or landlord must apply to the court to have a written notice served on the tenant
  • The notice must be served at least 14 days before the hearing

The Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT) works alongside the Rental Housing Act, fostering the relationship between landlords and tenants to be one of fairness in terms of lease agreements and any unlawful evictions and unlawful notices to vacate. From the moment the lease agreement terms have been breached, for example, the tenant fails to make rent payments, the landlord may cancel the agreement and the tenant then becomes an illegal occupier.

The PIE Act states that no one may be without property except in terms of law of general application.  Arbitrary deprivation of property from any person is unlawful. Additionally:

  • 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 it should be recognised that the needs of those groups should be considered.

The notice does not guarantee that the unlawful tenant will leave the premises as the court can only grant eviction if it is just and equitable. The owner must also have reasonable grounds for eviction and alternative accommodation available to the tenant.

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)

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)

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. “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.

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:

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.

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:

Western Cape Government, Title Deeds: Proof of Property Ownership, https://www.westerncape.gov.za

The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, http://www.dla.gov.za/

DAMAGE TO PROPERTY

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.

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:

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].

WHEN PROPERTY AND HERITAGE DISAGREE

The provincial heritage resources authority (PHRA) granted a permit in terms of Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999 for the demolition of a structure that was older than 60 years and situated on a property with no formal heritage status. By doing so, conditions were imposed controlling future development on the property and it was held that such conditions were lawfully imposed.

Gees v the Provincial Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) recently dismissed an appeal against a judgment of the Western Cape High Court. In so doing the SCA held that the large concentration of art deco buildings spanning Davenport Road, Vredehoek, Cape Town, forms part of the national estate and is worthy of protection as a heritage resource.

Therefore, the SCA held that Heritage Western Cape, in granting a permit for the demolition of the appellant’s 60-year-old block of flats, was justified in imposing conditions controlling future development on the property.

It is true that the conditions imposed in the demolition permit amount to a curtailment of the appellant’s entitlement to deal with his property as he sees fit, and may therefore to a certain extent be regarded as a deprivation of property. However, it is widely recognised that in our present constitutional democracy an increased emphasis has been placed upon the characteristic of ownership which requires that entitlements must be exercised in accordance with the social function of law in the interest of the community.

Conclusion

AJ van der Walt and GJ Pienaar in “Introduction to the Law of Property” 7ed (2016), put it as follows:

‘. . . the inherent responsibility of the owner towards the community in the exercise of his entitlements is emphasised. The balance between the protection of ownership and the exercise of entitlements of the owner regarding third parties, on the one hand, and the obligations of the owner to the community, on the other hand, must be maintained throughout. This might, in certain circumstances, even mean that an owner’s entitlements could be limited or infringed upon in the interest of the community. In such cases the infringement must always be reasonable and equitable [not arbitrary].’

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:

Gees v The Provincial Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport (974/2015) [2015] ZASCA 136 (29 September 2016)

WHY IS MY PROPERTY TRANSFER TAKING SO LONG?

After signing a deed of sale, the purchasers often want to move into the property as soon as possible. When they are informed of the process involved prior to the property being transferred this may damper their excitement. There may also be delays in the transaction. In order to avoid unnecessary frustration, it is vital that parties to the transaction understand the processes involved and that delays are sometimes inevitable.

The deed of sale will normally be the starting point in a transaction for a conveyancer who has been instructed to attend to the transfer.  This conveyancer is also known as the transferring attorney and is normally the main link between the other attorneys involved the transfer transaction.

Postponements, delays and interruptions

  1. A major role of the conveyancer is informing any mortgagees, for example banks, about the transfer so that any notice periods for the cancellation of bonds can start running. The notice period is usually up to 90 days. The transfer may be delayed as a result of this notice period.
  1. Obtaining the various certificates, receipts and consents applicable to the transaction in question also takes time. Examples of these is the rate clearance certificate, transfer duty receipt, homeowners’ association’s consent to the transfer, levy clearance certificate, electrical compliance certificate and plumbing certificate. The time it takes to obtain these certificates will differ from case to case. After an inspection by a plumber or electrician, for example, it may be found that certain work needs to be carried out before the certificates will be issued.
  1. Once all the documents are lodged at the Deeds Office by the conveyancer, an internal process is followed, which has different time frames in the various Deeds Offices. This time frame can also vary in a particular Deeds Office. It is best to enquire from your conveyancer what the Deeds Office time frame is at any given stage.

There are many ways in which the transfer process could be delayed, these are just some of the examples. If you feel that the process is taking too long, then you should contact your conveyancer.

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. (E&OE)

Reference:

 Aktebesorging, UNISA 2004, Department Private Law, Ramwell, Brink & West

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.
2. Ensure the cancellation gives the requisite 20 business days’ notice.
3. Charge rental until the end of the 20 business days (even if this is not a full month’s rental).
4. Log on to TPN and end the lease as at the end of the 20 business days.
5. Keep in mind the lease now ends as at the end of that 20 business days.
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.
7. Begin advertising the property immediately- the onus is on the agent/landlord to find a replacement.
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:

  • Credit check costs for any prospective replacement tenants (even those who are not accepted);
  • Advertising costs (only the actual amounts on the invoices);
  • 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.

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.privateproperty.co.za/advice/property/articles/how-to-cancel-a-residential-lease/3315

http://www.melcoproperties.co.za/template/ArticleDisplay.vm/articleid/2243

RENTING PROPERTY TO FOREIGNERS

My Lawyer_Images_Template-04Renting 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.

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.expatarrivals.com/south-africa/accommodation-in-south-africa

http://www.avidfirefly.co.za/00000/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=92:can-i-lease-or-sell-my-house-to-a-foreigner

WHAT DOES THE DEEDS OFFICE DO?

My Lawyer_Images-04The Deeds Office is responsible for the registration, management and maintenance of the property registry of South Africa. If you are planning on buying a house, it can be useful knowing about the Deeds Office. However, you would use the services of a conveyancer when buying or selling a house. Your estate agent should be able to recommend a conveyancing attorney to register your home loan and transfer a property into your name.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal term for the process whereby a person, company, close corporation or trust becomes the registered and legal owner of immovable property and ensures that this ownership cannot be challenged. It also covers the process of the registration of mortgages.

Steps taken by the conveyancer:

  1. The conveyancer lodges your title deed and other documents in the Deeds Office for registration. These documents will be individually captured on the system. If there is a bond, the conveyancer dealing with the bond will lodge the bond documents with the Deeds Office at the same time as the transfer documents. The transfer, bond and cancellation documents must be lodged in the Deeds Office at the same time to ensure simultaneous registration. If different conveyancers are dealing with registering the purchaser’s bond and cancelling the seller’s bond, then they will need to collaborate.
  2. The Deeds Office examiners go through the documentation that has been submitted, and make sure that it complies with the relevant laws and legislations.
  3. The examiners then inform the conveyancer that the deeds are ready to be registered.
  4. Registration takes place with the conveyancer and Registrar of Deeds present. The transfer of the property is then registered in the purchaser’s name. If there is a bond, it is registered at the same time.
  5. Upon registration, the purchaser becomes the lawful owner of the property. The title deed that reflects this ownership is given to the conveyancer by the deeds office after the registration. Unless a bond has been registered as well, in which case the title deed is given to the bond holder.

The time taken to register a property at the Deeds Office depends on various factors and a number of parties. On average, registering a property transfer takes six to eight weeks, although unforeseen difficulties can cause the period to be extended.

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.justlanded.com/english/South-Africa/South-Africa-Guide/Property/Conveyance

http://www.privateproperty.co.za/advice/property/articles/what-you-need-to-know-about-registering-a-property/5081

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