Category: Property Law (page 1 of 3)

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

CO-OWNING PROPERTY WITH SOMEONE ELSE: THE UPS AND DOWNS

My Lawyer_Images-04What is co-ownership?

Co-ownership is when one or more people jointly own the same property. In essence, it is when they legally share ownership without dividing the property into physical portions for their exclusive use. It is thus commonly referred to as co-ownership in undivided shares.

It is possible to agree that owners acquire the property in different shares; for instance, one person owns 70 percent and the other 30 percent of the single property. The different shares can be recorded and registered in the title deeds by the Deeds Office.

The benefits

On paper, it’ a great idea. For starters, the bond repayments and costs of maintaining the home are halved. However, there can be problems and although not every friendship or relationship is destined to disintegrate, there does often come a time when one of the parties involved wants to sell up and move on to bigger and better things.

The risks

If ownership is given to one or more purchasers, without stipulating in what shares they acquire the property, it is legally presumed that they acquired the property in equal shares.

The risks, the benefits and the obligations that flow from the property are shared in proportion to each person’s share of ownership in the property. For instance, one of the co-owners fails to contribute his share of the finances as initially agreed, resulting in creditors such as the bank or Body Corporate taking action to recover the shortfall.

Having an agreement

If two people own property together in undivided shares it is advisable to enter into an agreement which will regulate their rights and obligations if they should decide to go their own separate ways.

The practical difficulties that flow from the rights and duties of co-ownership are captured by the expression communio est mater rixarum or “co-ownership is the mother of disputes”. It is therefore important that, when the agreement the co-owners entered into does not help them solve disputes, certain remedies are available to them.

The agreement should address the following issues:

  1. In what proportion will the property be shared?
  2. Who has the sole right to occupy the property?
  3. Who will contribute what initial payments to acquire the property.
  4. Who will contribute what amounts to the ongoing future costs and finances.
  5. How the profits or losses will be split, should the property or a share be sold?
  6. The sale of one party’s share must be restricted or regulated.
  7. The right to draw funds out of the access bond must be regulated.
  8. A breakdown of the relationship between the parties.
  9. Death or incapacity of one of the parties.
  10. Dispute resolution options before issuing summons.
  11. Termination of 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://igrow.co.za/co-ownership-of-property-what-you-need-to-know/

http://www.privateproperty.co.za/advice/property/articles/the-pitfalls-of-property-co-ownership/5046

http://www.jgs.co.za/index.php/property/owning-prop-jointly-the-do-s-and-dont-s

MY TENANT FAILED TO PAY RENT: CAN I KICK HIM OUT?

b2If your tenant has failed to pay his or her rent, it can be tempting to simply kick them out yourself and change the locks. However, do so would be considered illegal, even if the tenant has become an illegal occupant. The reason is because of the PIE Act.

In sum, the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) (1998) provides procedures for eviction of unlawful occupants and prohibits unlawful evictions. The main aim of the Act is to protect both occupiers and landowners. The owner or landlord must follow the provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) (except in areas where ESTA operates) if they want to evict a tenant.

Who is covered?

  • Anyone who is an unlawful occupier, which includes tenants who fail to pay their rentals and bonds, is covered by PIE.  It excludes anyone who qualifies as an ‘occupier’ in terms of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act

When is an eviction lawful?

  • For an eviction to happen lawfully, certain procedures must be followed. If any one of them is left out, the eviction is unlawful. So, if an owner wants to have an unlawful occupier evicted, they must do the following:
    • give the occupier notice of his/her intention of going to court to get an eviction order.
    • apply to the court to have a written notice served on the occupier stating the owner’s intention to evict the occupier.
    • The court must serve the notice at least 14 days before the court hearing. The notice must also be served on the municipality that has jurisdiction in the area.

After a landlord intrusts their attorney to commence eviction proceedings, the following happens:

  • Typically, (except in a case of urgency, e.g. if the tenant is maliciously damaging the leased premises because he got notice to vacate) the attorney will call on the tenant to remedy the breach (usually failure to pay rent on time);
  • If the tenant fails to deal with the demand, the tenant will be considered to be in illegal occupation of the property;
  • The attorney then applies to court for permission to begin the eviction process. The court gives a directive as to how and on whom notice of eviction should be served;
  • The attorney doesn’t give the tenant notice at this time;
  • The application to court sets out the reasons for the application and the personal circumstances of the occupants;
  • If the courts are satisfied that it is fair to evict the tenant and all persons occupying the property with him, it gives a directive as to how the application for eviction must be served;
  • The sheriff then serves the notice of intention to evict on the tenant and the Local Municipality;
  • The occupants have an opportunity to oppose the application, and explain why they should not be evicted;
  • If there is opposition, the matter gets argued before a magistrate or judge, who decides whether an eviction order can be granted, and if so, by when the occupants should vacate the property within a stipulated time;
  • If the tenant does not oppose, the court will grant the eviction order;
  • If the tenant fails to move, the attorney will apply to Court for a warrant of ejectment to be issued by the Court. This process can take a further three to four weeks.

Reference:

http://www.passop.co.za/your-rights/housing-rights-pie

http://www.bregmans.co.za/can-evict-tenant-without-court-order/

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)

IS MY TENANT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WORN OUT CARPET?

my-lawyer_images_nov-05There are several damages a landlord can deduct from a tenant’s deposit. However, there are certain household items that will experience normal wear and tear over time. This is referred to as “fair wear and tear”.

Fair wear and tear is seen as damage or loss to an item at the property which happens as a result of ordinary use and exposure over time.

According to the Rental Housing Act, a landlord is free to claim compensation for damage to the property caused by the tenant, except for fair wear and tear.

It’s important to remember that the original condition and age of the item at commencement of the lease agreement needs to be taken into account, and therefore cost of depreciation of the item due to normal wear. Paint fades, doors and walls get scuffed with use, and everything wears or breaks over time, even with a tenant who really cares for the property, and one can’t hold a tenant liable for this.

If a tenant or landlord has a problem, they can go to the Rental Housing Tribunal to resolve it.

The Rental Housing Tribunal

The Rental Housing Tribunal is a useful resource for both landlords and tenants who are dealing with rental property disputes in different forms. Cases that the Rental Housing Tribunal deals with include:

  1. Tenants defaulting on their rent
  2. Failure to repay a deposit
  3. Invasion of a tenant’s privacy
  4. Overcrowding of a rental property
  5. Determining a fair rental amount
  6. Illegal seizing of a tenant’s property
  7. Discrimination against a prospective tenant
  8. A receipt for rent not being issued
  9. Unacceptable behaviour by a tenant
  10. Lack of maintenance and repairs to the property
  11. Illegally refuse a tenant access to the property or interrupt services
  12. Unacceptable living conditions

A general rule of thumb is that, if a tenant has damaged something that does not normally wear out, or the tenant has substantially shortened the life of something that does wear out, the tenant may be charged the prorated cost of the item. The landlord should take into account how old the item was and how long it may have lasted otherwise, as well as the cost of replacement.

Conclusion

Ordinary wear and tear to carpets should not count against the tenant, however large rips or stains would be considered damage. Any deduction for the tenant’s deposit should take into account the age of the carpets, compared with the expected total time of usage.

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.lettingworx.co.za/blog/item/fair-wear-and-tear-on-rented-property.html

http://www.privateproperty.co.za/advice/property/articles/what-is-classified-as-fair-wear-and-tear/5010

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