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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)

SPANKING KIDS NOW ILLEGAL

The South Gauteng High Court ruled that the common law defence of reasonable chastisement is not in line with the Constitution and no longer applies in our law. This means disciplining your child in the form of a spanking is no longer considered legal within South Africa.

How did it come to this?

It has always been considered a crime of assault to hit a child, however, if a parent was charged, they would be able to raise a special defence which said that if the chastisement, or discipline, was reasonable they would not be found guilty.

The special defence of chastisement has been removed by the Court, which was to bring the common law in line with the Constitution. This followed an appeal by a father who had been found guilty of assault because he beat his 13-year-old son. The way in which he beat his son was deemed to exceed the bounds of reasonable chastisement.

The Court said that it wanted to guide and support parents in finding more positive and effective ways of disciplining children. The Minister of Social Development, Bathabilie Dlamini, also agreed that the defence of reasonable chastisement is unconstitutional. The Court said that protecting children was particularly important in the context of the high levels of child abuse and violence that pervade our society.

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:

YG v S (A263/2016) [2017] ZAGPJHC 290 (19 October 2017)

“It’s now illegal to spank your child in SA”. https://www.enca.com/south-africa/it-is-now-illegal-to-spank-your-child-in-sa

MUNICIPAL DEBT INVALID, THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HAS RULED

On 23 May 2017, the Constitutional Court heard an application for confirmation of an order of the High Court of South Africa, that declared section 118(3) of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, 2000, constitutionally invalid.

On 29 August, in a ruling majority written by Justice Edwin Cameron, the court found that upon transfer of a property, a new owner is not liable for old municipal debt.

Section 118 of the Municipal Systems Act

Section 118(3) explains that municipal debt on any property is a charge upon that property and enjoys preference over any mortgage bond registered against the property. However, the question was whether this means that, when a new owner buys the property, the property remains with the debts of a previous owner.

What did the court say?

The court ruled that section 118 (3) is “well capable of being interpreted”, so that the historical debt is not transferred to a new owner of the property.

“What is notable about section 118(3) is that the legislature did not require that the charge (historical debt) be either registered or noted on the register of deeds. Textually, there is no indication that the right given to municipalities has a third-party effect (to a new owner)… It (historical debt) stands alone, isolated and unsupported, without foundation or undergirding and with no express words carrying any suggestion that it is transmissible,” the court said in the judgement.

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:

The Constitutional Court of South Africa

“Concourt rules new homeowners not liable for debts of previous owners”, Ray Mahlaka, The Citizen, 29 August 2017. https://citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/1631149/concourt-rules-new-homeowners-not-liable-for-debts-of-previous-owners/

Jordaan and Another v City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality and Others; New Ventures Consulting & Services (Pty) Ltd and Others v City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality and Another; Livanos and Others v Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and Another; Oak Plant Rentals (Pty) Ltd and Others v Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (74195/2013; 13039/2014; 13040/2014; 19552/2015; 23826/2014) [2016] ZAGPPHC 941; [2017] 1 All SA 585 (GP); 2017 (2) SA 295 (GP) (7 November 2016)

CHILDREN WITH DISABILITY OR CHRONIC ILLNESS

The South African Children’s Act ensures the safety of ALL children, including those with disability or chronic illness.

 Many children (and their families) experience a sense of powerlessness in the beginning of dealing with a disability or chronic illness, and often feel very stressed at facing a future filled with unknowns. Every child has the right to health and safety, and in South Africa, the Children’s Act provides for the health and safety of ALL children, including children with disability or chronic illness. It is important that children who are disabled or live with a chronic illness know their rights; they should be informed and protected.

 The law on children with disability

South African law states that due consideration must be given to children with disability:

  • The child must be provided with care and support as and when appropriate.
  • It must be made possible for the child to participate in social and educational activities, recognising their special needs and promoting self-reliance.

The law on children with chronic illness

According to South African law, the following must be evident when it comes to children with chronic illness:

  • The child must be provided with the necessary parental care and support services.
  • The child must be provided with conditions that ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate participation in the community.

A child with disability or chronic illness has the right not to be subjected to medical, cultural or religious practices that are detrimental to their health or dignity. Parents or guardians should do their best to protect the rights of their children, and also to listen to them and assist them where needed. However, it is important not to safeguard them in such a way as to alienate them from the rest of the world.

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:

Children’s Act 38 of 2005. http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/2005-038%20childrensact.pdf

DIVORCED STAY AT HOME PARENT

Are you recently divorced and a stay at home parent? Know your rights and get what you deserve!

In South African law, section 7(2) of the Divorce Act deals with the payment of maintenance in situations where no settlement agreement has been entered into between the parties, and it’s up to the courts to deal with the matter of maintenance.

What happens if I get divorced?

Rehabilitative maintenance refers to divorce situations where a maintenance order is given for a certain time after the divorce is finalised. The court makes a decision based on certain factors, including; the divorcing couple’s current and potential future financial means, their ages, the length of the marriage, their standard of living before the divorce, and any behaviour that may have contributed to the divorce.

In South Africa, no maintenance will be awarded to someone who can support themselves, or has the ability to support themselves. If the stay at home parent has not abandoned or downscaled his/her career to stay at home to take care of the children, no maintenance will be awarded.

How can the law protect me?

An award for rehabilitative maintenance is usually given when the court finds that a marriage has significantly affected the ability of one person to support themselves. When maintenance is awarded, the court takes into consideration the amount of time it will take for the stay at home parent to upskill him/herself to re-enter the job market. In many cases, it isn’t possible for the stay at home parent to re-enter the job market, and they may find themselves without an income once the period of rehabilitative maintenance is over.

Courts need to look at how employable the stay at home parent is when he/she seeks a maintenance award. If employability isn’t possible, the stay at home parent should be granted maintenance until death or remarriage.

The ages of the couple’s children will also be taken into consideration, as well as which parent will be the primary resident parent. Rehabilitative maintenance could be awarded to the stay at home parent to take care of the children until they can support themselves.

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.w24.co.za/Work/Legal/Stay-at-home-spouses-divorce-and-maintenance-20150219

http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/1979-070.pdf

AWAITING YOUR DEPOSIT

What to know when your landlord has your deposit and has failed to pay it out

You have viewed the new property and secured it by paying the correct deposit amount to the landlord. With the transition into your new space being as breezy as it was, no red flags were raised as to how your landlord could trick you going forward. How do you approach a situation where your landlord won’t pay you back your deposit after you move out?

Firstly, a pre- and post-occupation inspection of the rental space must be completed before and after the tenant moves in. This inspection is the landlord’s responsibility and if he or she does not conduct the said inspection, they are then unable to claim against the tenant upon the lease expiration. The Rental Housing Act states that the tenant has the right not to have their home or property searched by the landlord, and thus, the landlord must give reasonable notice for inspection 3 days before the lease ends.

Regarding deposits, section 5 of the RHA states that, should there be damages incurred by the tenant under the said lease needing repair after the post-occupation inspection, the landlord must refund the remaining deposit amount, if any, to the tenant within 14 days. In the case where no claims for damages have been made by the landlord, and the tenant is debt free in terms of charges and rent, the deposit must be refunded within seven days following the lease expiration. A tenant who refuses to take part in the inspection process, and damages have been found, is liable to receive their remaining deposit 21 days from the expiration of the lease.

If a landlord refuses or has failed to refund the tenant their deposit, the tenant may approach the Rental Housing Tribunal.

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:

Rental Housing Act No. 50 of 1999. (2017). [PDF] Cape Town: Republic of South Africa, pp.6-7. Available at: https://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/a50-99.pdf [Accessed 20 Nov. 2017].

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].

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