Month: April 2015

Rescission of judgement

A1BImagine receiving the nasty surprise that default judgement has been entered against your name because of a summons that you have never even received. It is necessary that you know the procedure of how to rescind a default judgement to get you out of this unwanted situation.

Many people are confronted with the unfortunate situation of a judgement being entered against their name, without even being aware that legal action is being taken against them. The reason for this is that when a party fails to deliver a notice of intention to defend a summons, a Plaintiff is entitled to lodge an application for default judgment.[1]

The reason for many Defendants not filing a notice of intention to defend, is the fact that they simply never receive the summons initiating an action against them. Personal service of documents by the Sheriff is only required where the matter affects a person’s personal status, such as with divorces and sequestrations. As it is not a requirement for the Sheriff personally, to serve a summons on a person, it can lead to situations where the Defendant never sees the summons, although the Sheriff stated that the summons has been legitimately served.[2] An example hereof many people who indicate their domicilium citandi et executandi or nominated address where notices are sent, in an agreement. In the event of the Defendant moving, the Sheriff will still deliver the summons to this address, but the Defendant will never receive it.

In the event of a Defendant not receiving a summons, certain steps have to be taken to have the judgment rescinded. The Defendant has to serve and file his application for rescission of judgment within 20 days after becoming aware of the judgment that was entered against him.[3] The Defendant (now the Applicant) is required to set out in an affidavit why the matter was not defended and what the bona fide defence is to the claim.  The onus is upon the Applicant to set out legitimate reasons for why the matter was not defended.[4]

When bringing an application for the rescission of judgement before court, the following principles are applicable:[5]

The Applicant must give a reasonable explanation for his default. The court will be unwilling to help the Applicant if it is found that he was aware of the proceedings against him or if the default was simply due to his own negligence. If the Applicant’s default is of a wilful or negligent nature, these will serve as considerations that the court will take into account when deciding whether an application should be granted.

In many cases an Applicant simply rescinds a default judgement to delay the inevitable. It is therefore necessary for the Applicant to show that he is not simply delaying the Plaintiff’s claim. A bona fide defence, in other word a genuine defence, must therefore be shown, although it is not required to deal fully with the merits thereof or produce any evidence in this regard.

Ultimately, the court has discretion whether to rescind the default judgment or not, based on whether good cause was shown by the Applicant.[6]

Although it involves an unwanted and often lengthy and expensive process, it is important to have any judgments against your name rescinded as soon as possible, as they have a negative impact on your credit rating. These judgements, if executed, will also leave you highly annoyed when the Sheriff shows up on your doorstep with a warrant of execution to seize your personal belongings.

[1] Magistrates Court, Rules of Court, Rule 12(1)(c)

[2] Magistrates Court, Rules of Court, Rule 9(3)

[3] Magistrates Court, Rules of Court, Rule 49(1)

[4] Du Plessis v Tager 1953 (2) SA 5 (O)

[5] Grant v Plumbers (Pty) Ltd 1949 (2) SA 470 (O)

[6] De Witts Auto Body Repairs v Fedgen Insurance Co Ltd 1994 (4) SA 705

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

What does a suspensive condition in a contract really mean?

A2BMost people that have bought a property may have noticed a clause dealing with suspensive conditions in the contract of sale.

Usually these conditions relate to deposits that need to be paid, financing that has to be procured and/or another property that needs to be sold before the sale can be confirmed. The interpretation appears straightforward enough – meet the requirements, and the contract is valid; fail to meet the requirements and the contract is invalid. But is it really that straightforward? And what are the consequences of non-compliance?

In layman’s terms a condition contained in a contract can be described as a provision that defers the obligation(s) of a party in the contract to the occurrence of some future uncertain event. This is usually termed a ‘suspensive condition’ or a ‘condition precedent’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is responsible for water leaks?

A3BMaintenance of a sectional title scheme can appear straightforward, but the reality is that disputes arise frequently regarding maintenance issues relating to sectional title units.

This is often the result of the complex relationship of close quarter living and the shared form of ownership represented by sectional titles. Making things even more complicated is the silence of the Sectional Titles Act on many of the minor issues encountered daily in sectional title schemes. So how do you approach the maintenance issues in a sectional title scheme?

Dave owns a flat on the second floor of a sectional title scheme. There is a water leak coming from flat A above him, causing damp problems in his flat and the owner of flat A does not repair the leak. This scenario creates a flurry of questions:

  • Should Dave, the owner of flat A or the body corporate repair the leak?
  • Can they enter flat A, or should the owner grant them permission first?
  • If the owner of flat A refuses to do the repairs or to grant access, what are they to do to stop the leak and further damage occurring?

What does the law say regarding the responsibility of parties in this scenario? Section 44(1)(a) and (c) of the Sectional Titles Act read with management rules 68-70 of the Sectional Titles Act provides that an owner must repair and maintain his section in a state of good repair. The owner must also allow a person who is authorized in writing by the body corporate to enter his section at a reasonable time and after notice was given (except in case of emergency when no notice is required) to enter the property. This will happen with the purpose to inspect, maintain, repair, or renew the pipes, wires cables, and ducts capable of being used in connection with the enjoyment of any other section or the common property.

Section 37 of the Sectional Titles Act requires the body corporate to maintain and repair the common property. Therefore, if the leak originates from the shower in flat A above, it will be the responsibility of the owner of flat A to repair the damage.

Due to the fact that the leak is caused by flat A’s shower base, and therefore forms part of his section and not the common property, it is the responsibility of the owner of the section causing the damage and the leak to repair it.

If such an owner does not repair the leak within a reasonable time as to stop further damage, the owner suffering the damage can ask the body corporate to step in and repair the leak using the same procedure as in the instance where the leak is caused by pipes forming part of the common property. The body corporate can then recover the cost of repairs from the defaulting owner.

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.

Validity of Antenuptial Contracts

A4BOne must be careful when drafting and signing an Antenuptial Contract. Aside from ensuring that the contents is all correct, one must also ensure that all the necessary provisions are contained therein to make the contract valid. The consequences of neglecting to do so may result in a marriage in community of property even though the parties had no intention of this at the time of their marriage. Attorneys are often trusted with the task of drafting an Antenuptial Contract. This is a contract, which one signs to regulate the property regime of a marriage. If a couple does not sign, an Antenuptial Contract then the marital property regime will be that of in community of property. The presence of an Antenuptial Contract means that the marital property regime is that of out of community of property and the parties must specifically stipulate whether they would like the accrual system to apply to their marriage or not. The importance of ensuring that all the necessary provisions are contained in the Antenuptial Contract to result in a valid contract was discussed in the 2014 Supreme Court of Appeal Case of B v B[1]. In this case, no values were stated in respect of any of the assets listed in the Antenuptial Contract and they were also not properly identified. In B v B the court stated that if the terms of a contract are so vague and incoherent as to be incapable of a sensible construction then the contract must be regarded as void for vagueness.[2] According to Section 6(1) of the Matrimonial Property Act[3] ,a party to an intended marriage which does not, for the purpose of proof of the value of his or her estate at the time of the commencement of the marriage, declare the value in the contract, then he or she may do so within six months of the marriage in a statement attested to by a notary. If this is not done, according to Section 6(4) of the Marital Property Act, the net value of the estate of a spouse is then deemed to be nil at the time of the marriage. In effect, such a contract is valid but it will effectively render the marriage in community of property since nothing was excluded from the accrual. However, if a contract is contradictory and incoherent in other respects then it cannot be seen as a valid contract since there is no certainty as to the meaning of the contract and what the parties seek to achieve. This means that the contract would not embody terms that would enable to court to give effect to the intention of the parties at the time the contract was concluded.The result of such a contract is that the Antenuptial Contract would be void for vagueness and that the marital property regime would be the default position according to the Marital Property Act, which is in community of property.

Therefore, parties are encouraged to read their contracts thoroughly and ensure that they understand the terms thereof and that the contract embodies their intentions without any further explanations or evidence.

[1] (952/12) [2014] ZASCA 14 (24 March 2014).

[2] B v B (952/12) [2014] ZASCA 14 (24 March 2014) par 7.

[3] 88 of 1984.

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

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