Month: October 2015

Maintenance: Not only for children

A4_BWhen the word “maintenance” is mentioned, many people think of women claiming maintenance for minor children, or alternatively, women claiming maintenance from their ex-husbands. However, in this article we will deal with parents claiming maintenance from their adult children.

Mike Larry received a summons from the Maintenance Court to appear three weeks later for a maintenance matter, however Mike had no children or wife and was quite confused, thinking that perhaps the Court had made a mistake. Mike attended the Maintenance Court in order to enquire whether there had been a mishap in the documentation. However, what Mike found out made his heart sink, and soon his bank account, too.

Mike’s father, Jermaine, had made an application at the Maintenance Court for maintenance from Mike as he had no job and therefore no income. Mike asked his lawyer whether this was even possible and the answer was affirmative.

According to the Maintenance Act 99 of 1998, parents and children have a reciprocal duty of support. A child has a duty to support his/her parents and grandparents, but always subject to the rule that support must be claimed from one’s nearest relatives first. The basis of a child’s duty to support their parents is the sense of dutifulness or filial piety (relating to or due from a son or daughter). In certain circumstances even minor children may have to support their parents. As always, the criteria which must be present is a need on the part of the person to be maintained, and the ability to support on the part of the person from whom support is claimed. A parent who claims support from a child must prove his or her need and the child’s ability to support the parent. As mentioned above, a more stringent criterion of need is applied to parents than to children; indigence on the part of the parent is stated to be a requirement.

Our authorities are not entirely clear on this point. In Oosthuizen v Stanley the court spoke of “the quality and condition of the persons to be supported”. In the same case it was pointed out that where a parent must be supported it is not only the parent’s own needs but also those of the parent’s dependents which must be considered. In Van Vuuren v Sam Rabie, the Judge referred to the same criterion but stressed that the support of parents must be confined to the basic needs which are food, clothing, shelter, medicine and care in times of illness. Relying on the case of Surdus v Surdus, the Judge said that, in assessing the quality and condition of life of the person to be supported, it is primarily his present, not his past situation which is considered, but that in assessing these the Judge should exercise his discretion. For instance, a previously wealthy parent who has fallen on hard times should not be compelled to eat peasants’ food. It has been argued that the criterion of need should not be so narrowly interpreted here as to destroy the whole concept of a reciprocal obligation.

However, the following can also be considered when a parent makes an application for maintenance from his/her child:

  1. Siblings;
  2. Extra income; and
  3. Quality of living.

In terms of the common law an extramarital child has a duty to support his/her mother, but whether or not he/she must support his/her father has yet to be decided. It can, however, be argued that an extramarital child would be liable to maintain his/her father in terms of Section 16 of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005.

In conclusion, if you feel you are being unfairly targeted for a maintenance claim, be sure to consult with your attorneys so they can inform you of your rights and responsibilities.

This newsletter 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)

Difference between the Domestic Violence Act and the Harassment Act

A3_BThere are people who suffer emotional and physical abuse on a daily basis but are not quite sure what they can do to prevent it. There are two options available to them. They can either apply for a Protection Order or apply for a Harassment Order. However, many people do not know the difference between the two and which Order would suit their situation.

A Protection Order is described as being a form of court order that requires a party to do or to refrain from doing certain acts. These orders flow from the court’s injunction power to grant equitable remedies in these situations. The following is required to be present when applying for a Protection Order:

– Needs to show a pattern of abuse.

– It has to be a form of domestic violence which includes:

  • Physical violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Financial violence
  • Emotional/verbal violence

– The violence needs to be directed at the person who wants to make the application.

A Protection Order forms part of the Domestic Violence Act. This means that the abuse needs to be between persons that live in the same house, like brother and sister, or mother and father, etc. An application is made for a Protection Order and thereafter a return date is set. At the return date the Applicant can change their mind and ask that the order be removed. If not, the Order is granted, and it is binding for life. If the Respondent breaches the Protection Order, he/she may receive up to 5 years imprisonment. If the Applicant applies for a Protection Order under false pretences the Applicant may receive up to 2 years imprisonment.

The application for a Protection Order is an ex-parte application, which means that the application can be made without having the Respondent at Court. This can cause problems in the instance where the Respondent is innocent, but does not have a chance to defend himself/herself.

If you’ve been the victim of abusive or threatening behaviour by someone other than a person living with you, or with whom you have a domestic relationship, it may be harassment. There are different things you can do if you’re being harassed, such as applying for a Harassment Order. The following is important to know about Harassment Orders:

  • No pattern is needed, and a first offence can be sufficient for a Harassment Order.
  • No relationship is required, and it can be against someone you don’t even know
  • Harassment includes: following, messaging, unwanted packages, letters, psychological harm, physical harm, financial harm, etc.

If you decide to apply for a Harassment Order without knowing who it is against, the Court has the power to order a police official to investigate the matter. The application for a Harassment Order takes place in open court, which means that it is not private, which can sometimes prevent victims from making the application. Once a Harassment Order is granted, it is binding for 5 years. If the Applicant wants to withdraw the Order, the Court must be satisfied that the conditions have changed. Breach of a Harassment Order can result in 5 years imprisonment, which is the same punishment for Applicants who make the application under false pretences.

It is important to know that there are remedies available to victims who are in abusive relationships. Whether it is emotional, physical or financial abuse by someone you know or stalking and harassment by someone you don’t know, it is time to take a stand against abuse.

This newsletter 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) 

When is a tenant an illegal occupant?

A2_BWhere the Contract of Lease is breached in any way by the tenant and he or she after receiving notice thereof has not remedied such a breach within the period agreed upon, then the landlord may cancel the contract. The tenant will be found to be an illegal occupier in this instance.

Where a tenant fails to perform as agreed upon in his Lease agreement, he will be found to be in breach of that agreement. An example of this is a failure to pay rent timeously or at all. The landlord must notify the tenant in writing of his decision to terminate the contract by means of a letter of cancellation, allowing the tenant a reasonable period, or such timeframe as agreed upon in terms of such a lease, to vacate the property.

If the tenant chooses to ignore the notice of cancellation of the lease agreement by remaining on the property and continuing to use and enjoy it, the tenant will be regarded as an illegal occupier of the property. The same applies if the tenant continues to occupy the property after the expiration of the initial lease period. An illegal occupier may be evicted from the rented property by the landlord or owner. This will be done at a Magistrate’s or High Court and for that the services of a lawyer will be required.

There is no longer a Common Law right to evict someone. Instead the owner or landlord must follow the procedures and provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of land Act 19 of 1998 (hereinafter referred to as the “PIE Act”). The tenant must be notified of the pending action, by means of a Notice of Intention to Evict and this must be done at least 14 days before the date of the court hearing. This notice must also be sent to the respective Municipality involved.

On the date of the hearing, the court will consider factors such as whether the person is an unlawful occupier, whether the owner has reasonable grounds for eviction and alternative accommodation available to the tenant. It is now considered a criminal offence to evict someone without a court order to that effect. Constructive eviction, for instance, where a landlord cuts the water or electricity supply to the property in order to “drive” the tenants out, is a criminal offence.

The type of action or application that your legal representative will bring will vary depending on the facts and circumstances of the matter. Such actions or applications can be heard in the Magistrate’s or High Court, depending on the value of the occupation and not the leased property value. The lease agreement may also have a clause embodied in it where the parties agree to a particular court’s jurisdiction, where upon that will be followed. If the court proceedings are successful a Warrant of Ejectment may be issued, whereupon the owner or landlord may proceed with the eviction of the illegal occupier.

Once the owner or the proprietor of the leased property has followed all the prescribed procedures as laid out in the PIE Act and they have established that their tenant is considered an unlawful occupier then they may proceed with the above-mentioned steps in order to evict them from their property.

An unlawful occupier may be removed from the premises upon the instruction of an Eviction Order / Warrant of Eviction with the assistance of the Sheriff of the respective court at a minimal fee. The steps laid out in the PIE Act are simple to understand and follow allowing a transparent and fair chance to both the landlord and the tenant in these difficult situations.

This newsletter 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 is liable for the damages caused due to a motor vehicle accident?

A1_BWhat will happen to my vehicle after I have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and who will be responsible for the damages?

Over and above the emotional and economical tension it causes a person and his family, there will always be legal principles that apply.

The most prominent legal field that will apply when a person is involved in a motor vehicle accident is the law of delict. The law of delict will play an important role in determining who will be liable for the damages, if any. If the damages were caused due to the intentional or negligent conduct or omission of somebody else (the third party), the third party would be liable for the damages the car owner suffered. The third party is, however, not without a few defences, but that falls outside the scope of this article.

Another important legal doctrine to be observed in litigation is the doctrine of subrogation as it applies in the law of indemnity insurance. It is an accepted principle of indemnity insurance law that when an insurer fully indemnifies an insured party in the case of loss caused by a third party, the insurer has a claim against the third party in the name of the insured. The policy behind this doctrine is to prevent the insured party from receiving double compensation from both the insurer and the third party.

From a procedural point of view, the insurer obtains the right to institute legal proceedings against the third party in the name of the insured party if the insured party still has an unsatisfied claim against the third party. This principle allows the insurer to become dominus litis (master in the proceeding), but only in name and on behalf of the insured party. The insurer becomes entitled to conduct the proceedings in the name of the insured party provided that the insurer has fully indemnified the insured party and has also indemnified the insured party against the risk of legal costs which may arise from the proceedings. The insurer has no independent claim against the third party, but simply enforces the claim of the insured party for the insurer’s own benefit.

In summary, the car owner will be able to hold the third party liable irrespective if he has insurance or not. If the car owner has insurance he will be able to claim the damages from his insurance and if he does, the insurance will be able to recover the loss in the name of the insurer from the third party. The relationship between the insured and the insurance is a contractual relationship and if any party fails to perform in accordance with the agreement that party will be liable for breach of contract.

This newsletter 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) 

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