CAN I HAVE PETS IN A RESIDENTIAL COMPLEX?

 

“I never married because there was no need. I have three pets at home which answer the same purpose as a husband. I have a dog which growls every morning, a parrot which swears all afternoon, and a cat that comes home late at night” (Marie Corelli, English novelist)

Residential complexes and estates are becoming more and more popular for the many advantages they provide. Remember however that – in everyone’s interests – they also come with restrictions on your freedom to use and enjoy your property, and that you bind yourself to whatever Conduct Rules apply in your community scheme.

One of those restrictions is likely to be your right to keep a pet, and that’s a topic that can be a source of much conflict and unhappiness.

Residents tend to fall into one of three camps

  1. “I really need to have my little dog/cat/parrot/lizard living with me”
  2. “I simply cannot handle any more of that parrot-screeching/lapdog-yapping/midnight-cat-yowling – it has to go!” or
  3. “Pets – don’t need them myself but hey, fine so long as they don’t cause me any trouble”.

Regardless of which category you fall into, it’s important to understand before you move into any form of residential complex whether or not you and other residents are allowed to keep pets, and to obtain any necessary prior authority to do so.

Sellers, buyers and estate agents would do well to address this specifically in sale agreements to avoid disappointment and dispute down the line.

Sectional title schemes

Your Body Corporate has the right to impose limits on pet ownership. It can for example prohibit pets altogether, or it can impose limits on the number of pets allowed, types of pet, breeds or sizes allowed, access to common areas, noise-control, replacement on the pet’s death and so on. Trustees should take care here to define clearly what is allowed and what isn’t. Are only dogs banned or also cats and cage birds? What about pet pigs? Guide dogs? Hamsters? Pet snakes? Goldfish? The more detail the better.

You need to find out exactly what rules apply in your particular complex, but the standard “Prescribed Conduct Rule” below will be in force unless your Body Corporate has amended it. This Rule reads –

“Keeping of animals, reptiles and birds

  1. The owner or occupier of a section must not, without the trustees’ written consent, which must not be unreasonably withheld, keep an animal, reptile or bird in a section or on the common property.
  2. An owner or occupier suffering from a disability and who reasonably requires a guide, hearing or assistance dog must be considered to have the trustees’ consent to keep that animal in a section and to accompany it on the common property.
  3. The trustees may provide for any reasonable condition in regard to the keeping of an animal, reptile or bird in a section or on the common property.
  4. The trustees may withdraw any consent if the owner or occupier of a section breaches any condition imposed in terms of sub-rule (3).”

Note that where this Prescribed Rule applies unamended, the body corporate is specifically required to act “reasonably” in all the circumstances of each matter. That entails a delicate balancing act between the competing rights of pet-owning residents and their neighbours, which means grey areas and fertile ground for dispute.

Hence the advice to get clarity on your rights before buying into a complex.

Home Owners Associations (HOAs)

HOAs have similar rights to restrict the keeping of pets, but no “Prescribed Rules” apply as they do with sectional title and their powers will depend on whatever founding documentation underlies them. HOAs normally govern free-standing estate houses rather than apartments and so are perhaps more likely to be pet-friendly but again, find out what the complex’s Rules say before you buy.

Trustees barking up the wrong tree? Polly ruffling feathers? The ADR alternative

If you find yourself embroiled in a dispute with your body corporate/HOA or a fellow resident or owner, first prize will of course always be a chat over a friendly cup of coffee to find common ground and a win-win outcome.

If that fails, the (relatively) new Community Schemes Ombud Service provides an alternate dispute resolution (ADR) service designed to assist with just this sort of situation. Contact the professional legal team at Goldberg & de Villiers Inc on 041 5019800 for help in any doubt.

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AGING EMPLOYEES : WHEN MUST THEY RETIRE?

“Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples” (Comedian George Burns)

Record numbers of Baby Boomers are now reaching their 60s, and if you are an employer in any size of business (from the smallest family-owned enterprise to the largest corporate), make sure now that you have a policy in place to handle the thorny question of compulsory retirement.

This is vital – sooner or later you are going to have an employee turning 55 or 60 or 65, and if you think you can just say “Happy Birthday Kim, time for you to retire, see you around” you are in for big trouble.

So what’s the legally required retirement age?

The problem is that nothing in our law imposes a standard retirement age on employees. So trying to force someone to retire at an age that you unilaterally choose (no matter how much you may think that 65 is the universally-accepted gold standard for being put out to pasture) opens you up to a claim for ‘age discrimination’. And that would amount to an automatically unfair dismissal, for which our courts will make you pay dearly.

What our law does say is that “a dismissal based on age is fair if the employee has reached the normal or agreed retirement age for persons employed in that capacity” (our emphasis).

Let’s look at each of those options

“Agreed”: Clearly your best course of action is to have a written agreement with every employee specifying a compulsory retirement date. Ideally have such a clause in every new employment contract, and if any existing contracts have no such clause, negotiate one now (it’s essential to do this bilaterally not unilaterally – see case below).

“Normal”: You can always try to convince a court that you have, through past practice in your business, established a “normal” retirement age. You will have to prove that you have consistently applied this age in previous retirement situations and that the employee in question was aware of it. Far safer of course is to have in place a formal “retirement policy”.

Whatever you do, don’t act unilaterally

A recent Labour Court case shows how dangerous it can be to try to alter any term of employment without negotiating and agreeing it with your employees –

An employee’s employment contract made no direct mention of a compulsory or automatic retirement age, but his employer’s ‘Human Resources Policy and Procedure Manual’, which was incorporated into and formed part of his contract, stipulated a retirement age of 65.

This was reduced to 60 when the Manual was replaced by a “Terms and Conditions of Employment” policy. The new policy excluded employees “expressly entitled to retire at 65 in terms of their individual contracts of employment”.

The employee’s services were terminated when he turned 60 and he approached the Labour Court for assistance.

The Court held that the employer is “not permitted to unilaterally amend terms and conditions contractually agreed to” and was therefore in breach of contract. The employer must now reinstate the employee retrospectively to the date of termination, his compulsory retirement age being confirmed at 65.

What to do when retirement age is reached

Preferably your employment contracts should specify an agreed procedure to be followed on retirement date, but in any event don’t let the date just float past. Rather, if you agree on an extension period, have your lawyer draw up an amended employment contract to avoid any uncertainty or dispute.

Employees – know your rights

Age discrimination is just one form of automatically unfair discrimination prohibited by law. Stand up for your rights if you think you are being discriminated against, directly or indirectly, “on any arbitrary ground, including, but not limited to race, gender, sex, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language, marital status or family responsibility.”

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For assistance and more information, contact the professional legal team at Goldberg & de Villiers Inc on 041 5019800.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF DIRECTORS’ MEETING MINUTES – “WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN AND WHY?”

 

 

 

“A company must keep minutes of the meetings of the board, and any of its committees…” (Extract from the Companies Act)

Steinhoff and other high profile corporate scandals both here and overseas highlight the need for directors to ensure that their board and committee meetings (and the decisions taken at them) are correctly and accurately recorded.

The point is that as a company director you are given wide powers by our Companies Act, but you also have to comply with a raft of fiduciary duties and statutory responsibilities. Failure to do so exposes both your company and you personally to substantial risk.

A vitally important aspect of managing this risk is ensuring that proper minutes of your meetings are kept.

Good minute keeping – Who? What? Where? When? Why?

Here’s an idea worth following. U.S. law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler’s article “A Minute Guide to Minutes” (available here) suggests that you always cover the “5Ws”. In a local context these cover

  • Who? The names of all attendees, their capacities and, if anyone was present for only part of the meeting, which part. Record also any apologies or non-attendances. Remember that you may need to prove later that there was a quorum.
  • What? What happened in the meeting in relation to the agenda, the subjects discussed, decisions made and actions taken (resolutions passed must by law be numbered sequentially and dated), summaries of any presentations made by outsiders (such as staff or outside advisers like your lawyers), any important regulatory issues like declarations of conflict of interest (this latter is again a legal requirement), and so on.

Bear in mind the fundamental duty of directors to act in the company’s best interests, to understand the issues facing the company, and to formulate their own, independent views so they can actively contribute at board meetings. The minutes should reflect this. In addition, all directors should be sent a comprehensive pack at least 7 days before the meeting to give them time to prepare, and on an individual basis they should keep their own notes during the meeting and retain them as proof of having applied an independent mind to the issues.

Have your lawyers review the minutes in relation to any contentious issues discussed, particularly where there is any possibility of litigation or investigation by statutory bodies like SARS or the Competition Board.

Generally, strike a balance between too much detail and too little here – ensure that the minutes reflect everything of importance and give an accurate sense of the meeting without drowning in unnecessary detail.

  • Where? Ensure that the minutes (and any relevant documents referenced in them) are kept securely by the company secretary or a director for at the very least the statutory minimum of seven years.
  • When? It’s important that the minutes be written and approved shortly after meetings, and circulated to all directors whilst the meeting is still fresh in their minds.
  • Why? Directors’ meetings are fundamental to the good management of your company and to the decisions that you as a board make on its strategic direction. How these meetings are minuted could prove critical if for instance disputes or litigation or regulatory issues arise in the future.

In a nutshell, since minutes are, once signed by the chair, “evidence of the proceedings of that meeting” and of resolutions adopted, they provide the most important historical record of how and why decisions were taken. Prioritise this vital and legally-required recording process accordingly.

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For more information, contact the legal team at Goldberg & de Villiers Inc on 041 5019800.

 

DAGGA – JUST HOW LEGAL IS IT NOW?

 

 

The media has been awash with reports (sometimes conflicting, often vague) of what the recent Constitutional Court ruling actually means in practice.

Whether you agree with the ruling or not, and whether or not you personally have ever had (or intend to have) anything to do with cannabis/marijuana/weed/dagga, we all need to be aware of the implications.

Here’s some food for thought –

  • Err on the side of caution: Parliament has two years to change the relevant Acts to cure their constitutional defects. Until it does so, there will be many grey areas and your best course of action is always going to be to err on the side of caution. You really don’t want to be funding a test case in court, particularly if your job or your clean criminal record is at stake.
  • The limits of the ruling: The Court’s decision has not comprehensively “legalised dagga”. What it has done is to provide that, until the Acts are amended, it could not be a criminal offence for an adult person –

o          To use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption in private; and

o          To cultivate cannabis in a private place for his or her personal consumption in private.

Any form of supply or purchase, even in private, and any possession or use by a minor (under 18), anywhere, would still put you at risk of a criminal record and heavy penalties.

  • The danger of arrest: As the Court put it, if a police officer finds a person in possession of cannabis and thinks it is not for personal consumption, then “He or she will ask the person such questions as may be necessary to satisfy himself or herself whether the cannabis he or she is in possession of is for personal consumption.  If, having heard what the person has to say, the police officer thinks that the explanation is not satisfactory, he or she may arrest the person.  Ultimately, it will be the court that will decide whether the person possessed the cannabis for personal consumption.” Similar considerations will, said the Court, apply to questions around cultivation.

There is also no clarity on what will be considered to be a “private place” other than the Court’s comment that there are places other than “a person’s home or a private dwelling” where the right to privacy would apply.

The bottom line – you still risk arrest on suspicion of having or growing more dagga than a police officer considers reasonable for your personal consumption, or in a place that you consider “private” but that a police officer doesn’t.

  • Driving under the influence: Our law provides that: “No person shall on a public road … drive a vehicle or occupy the driver’s seat of a motor vehicle of which the engine is running … while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a drug having narcotic effect”. Effective testing by police if you are pulled over is another matter entirely, but does anyone really want to risk a stay in a police cell while a test is arranged?
  • In the workplace: Since the court’s ruling applies only to “private places” it seems unlikely that employees could ever get away with use or possession in a standard office situation. But what about an employee pitching for work whilst still under the influence? Practical issues of proof aside, it is probably an extremely bad idea. Employees have a general duty to perform their functions properly and doing anything to compromise that probably puts you at risk of at the very least a disciplinary warning. Of course anyone in a job where 100% sobriety is a non-negotiable necessity (think heavy machinery operators, surgeons, pilots and the like) risks a lot more than just a warning.

Employers: a final note

Having a properly-drawn “sobriety policy” in place will reduce the risk of confusion and dispute in the workplace. If you have a policy in place already, ask your lawyer to check that it adequately covers you in light of these new developments.

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For more information contact Tracey Mouton of Goldberg & de Villiers Inc on 041 501 9800.

WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEONE DIES

 

The inevitability of death doesn’t detract from the shock and distress that it brings to the grieving survivors, and much as we don’t like to plan for these things it will help at least a little to know what to do in practice after a death.

The formalities

There is unfortunately a lot of red tape involved, but your family doctor, undertaker and spiritual advisor (if you have one) will help you with or attend to many of the formalities and practicalities –

Firstly, you will need a Notice of Death which sets out the identity of the deceased as well as the date, time and cause of death. If the deceased died at home, call in your family doctor for help. The deceased will be transported to a mortuary or funeral home and an autopsy may be necessary if your doctor is unable to certify the cause of death as “natural causes” (generally speaking the doctor will need to have seen the deceased no more than 6 months prior to death to be satisfied in this regard). In cases of death from “unnatural causes” (accidents or suspicion of foul play for example) you need to call in the police who will organise an autopsy at a State Mortuary.

A Death Report will then be issued, together with a Burial Order. These are issued by persons authorised to do so by Home Affairs (the list includes traditional leaders, police officers and authorised undertakers). Note that cremation requires confirmation from a second doctor.

In due course the Department of Home Affairs will issue a Death Certificate after receipt of the Notice of Death and the Death Report. That can take a few weeks but you can get an abridged death certificate free of charge immediately. The executor of the deceased’s estate will need the Death Certificate to begin the process of winding up the estate and you or the executor will need certified copies for claims on life policies etc.

The death must also be reported within 14 days to the Master of the High Court.

Practical issues

  • Make a list of family members and close friends who you need to contact about the death, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and support, this is a time when everyone will want to be there for you.
  • If the deceased lived alone prioritise things like pets and livestock, home security and safety, security of firearms, electricity top-ups, perishables in fridges and so on.
  • If the deceased was an organ donor, let the applicable organisation know as soon as possible – time is naturally of the essence.
  • Find and secure the deceased’s ID document, passport/s, important papers like title deeds etc as soon as possible.
  • Find the deceased’s will (hopefully he/she will have left one) and contact the nominated executor who will give you a list of things you need to do and paperwork you need to get together. If you are nominated as executor, contact your attorney to help you with the winding-up process.
  • If there was no will, again contact your attorney for help in reporting the death to the Master of the High Court. You will need to lodge an inventory of assets with the Master, who will normally appoint a formal executor only where the value of the estate exceeds R250,000.
  • Find out if the deceased had funeral insurance and if so what is required to claim on it. There is no legal requirement for a funeral or memorial service to be held but generally be guided by the deceased’s wishes if you know or can find out what they were. Also naturally follow any religious beliefs and requirements. A funeral home will help with all the funeral arrangements.

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For more information and peace of mind, contact Goldberg & de Villiers Inc on 041 501 9800.

SELLING YOUR HOUSE: DISCLOSING DEFECTS

 

“Honesty is the best policy” (Benjamin Franklin)

A recent High Court decision again confirms that when it comes to selling your house, honesty is indeed the best policy.

Specifically, disclose all defects you know of to potential buyers, or risk expensive litigation and damages claims.

Defects and Defences

The buyers of a house, who had paid R2.3m for it (the seller having reduced her original asking price from R3.6m to get a sale), sued the seller for damages in respect of various defects. These, they said, had only come to light after transfer.

The Magistrates Court awarded them R92,352-80 in damages, and the High Court upheld that award on appeal. The seller must also pay legal costs, which will no doubt be substantial. Her loss is a practical lesson in the dangers of trying to hide defects from potential buyers.

The seller did not dispute the existence of the defects complained of, nor did she claim to have shown or disclosed them to the buyers, but she did raise various legal defences to the buyers’ claims –

  • Leaking roofs, defective windows, broken mirrors, defective pool equipment and missing keys: The seller argued that all of these defects were “patent” (easily identified on inspection) rather than “latent” (hidden or non-obvious). The buyers, said the seller, had an opportunity to thoroughly inspect the premises but had chosen not to do so and therefore had no claim. The Court however found that there was no evidence to corroborate this – there being for example no evidence that the buyers had inspected the house on a rainy day when the leaks would have been detectable.
  • The electric fence: In regard to latent defects such as the defective electric fence, the seller claimed protection from a voetstoots clause in the sale agreement. But our law is that a seller has a general duty to deliver the thing sold to the buyer without defects, and whilst a seller should always try to guard against liability for latent defects with a “voetstoots” (“as is” or “without any warranty”) clause, it offers no protection where the seller has acted fraudulently. Thus a buyer can sidestep a voetstoots clause by proving that the seller “at the time of the conclusion of the contract was aware of the existence of the latent defect in the [house] sold and deliberately concealed the existence of the defect to the purchaser or refrained from informing the purchaser of its existence.” On the facts of this case, held the Court, the seller had deliberately concealed defects such as the defective electric fence energiser.
  • The pool filter and cleaner: The sale agreement included a specific one-month warranty in regard to fixtures and fittings, which included the pool equipment. These, said the seller, had been in normal working order at the time of the sale. But the evidence showed that defects in them, resulting from years of wear and tear and requiring complete replacement, had in fact been discovered within the one month period after the sale. The seller had to honour the warranty.
  • The electrical compliance certificate: The certificate required by the sale agreement and provided by the seller was found after transfer to have been invalid. The house was accordingly not electrically compliant and the buyers could recover their costs of fixing the defects.

A note for sellers

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that buyers will find defects for themselves, or of believing that a voetstoots clause will automatically protect you from liability.  Avoid all doubt by thoroughly inspecting your property, annex to the sale agreement a written list of all defects you find or know about, then get the buyer to sign it in acknowledgment. There is no substitute for proper legal advice here.

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Before selling or buying a property, contact the professional legal team at Goldberg & de Villiers Inc on 041 5019800.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF MAINTAINING RECORDS FOR OVERTIME

 

Section 76 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act requires the employer to prove the accuracy and validity of any record that it maintains and, if it has failed to maintain a record, it must prove that it has complied with the Act.

In Venter vs Symington & De Kok the Court pointed out that the onus of proving that overtime was worked still rests on the employee, but once the employee is able to show on a balance of probabilities that she did work overtime on certain occasions, the burden of proving compliance with the BCEA shifts to the employer.

The Court accepted that instructions that particular work had to be finished before the employee could leave for the day was to be construed as an instruction to work overtime, and accordingly payment was thus due to the employee.

This case is amongst many that highlight the importance of keeping records which comply with the BCEA.

For advice in relation to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act contact Goldberg & De Villiers Inc., Tracey Mouton on (041) 501 9801 or e-mail: traceym@goldlaw.co.za.

DRUNK DRIVING ARREST: DAMAGES FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT IN CELL

 

Here’s one more reason to never ever allow yourself or anyone else to drive when over the legal limit (for non-professional drivers, a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1,000ml or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml).

If you are caught by the police (statistically, a regular offender will be caught sooner or later – there are 75,000 such arrests in SA every year) your life could be destroyed even before you see the inside of a courtroom.

Of course the police are duty bound to protect your fundamental rights whilst in their custody, but we’ve all heard the many nightmare stories of abuse and assault in police cells. A recent Supreme Court of Appeal decision dealt with one such case.

Gang raped in the cells

  • A family man was arrested and charged with a number of very serious offences – driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless and negligent driving and failure to stop after an accident. This after, at 2.30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, he allegedly drove into a house’s fence/wall and then attempted to drive away from the scene, leaving his injured passengers behind.
  • After charging him, senior police officers authorised the driver’s release from custody on R500 bail because he had a fixed home address and employment; was married with a 5 year-old child; had no previous convictions and no outstanding warrants of arrest; was not on bail on another case; and had not committed an offence while on bail.
  • Before his release however he was transferred to another police station, and when his wife arrived to pay the bail she was laughed at and told no bail had been allowed.
  • The driver accordingly spent the rest of the weekend in a police cell, where he was attacked and raped by an unknown number of cellmates, losing consciousness during the assault and scared to report the attack for fear of reprisals. He was unable to prove his allegations of a lack of cell inspections and of police failure to transfer him to another cell after he reported being warned of an impending attack on him, but there was no denial by the police of the sexual assault itself.
  • In court the driver was released on bail and the charges against him were ultimately withdrawn.
  • He then sued for damages, and as in every civil liability claim, needed to prove wrongful conduct by the police that had caused him harm, plus some form of fault or blameworthiness (like intention or negligence).
  • In the end result the Court ordered the police to pay damages to the driver on the basis that –

o             The conduct of the police and its wrongfulness were not in dispute,

o             The police had been negligent both in failing to release him on bail and in failing to separate him from violent offenders also in custody, and

o             There was a “direct and probable chain of causation” between those failures and the attack.

Police liable; but what consolation damages?

So the driver has been vindicated but the Court’s award to him of R200,000 in “general damages” is unlikely to go far in consoling him for the ordeal’s impact on his life. Our courts are deliberately conservative in assessing general damages, but the clinical psychologist’s evidence as to the serious psychological impact on the driver of his experience (as reported in the judgement) makes for harrowing reading.

Intense trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, ongoing treatment with anti-depressants (six years down the line), deep humiliation, intense fear of amongst other things contracting HIV, sexual problems, a broken marriage, problems relating to his child, poor self-image, personality changes, flashbacks – the list goes on. Ultimately problems at work (including being unable to work in teams and being mocked by his colleagues) led to his employment being terminated, after which he attempted suicide and spent five days in a hospital ICU.

Of course none of this means that we should supinely accept vindictiveness or negligence from those appointed to serve and protect us. Media reports suggest that large claims against the police (and other government services) are regularly settled out of court for millions. Just remember that legal advice as soon as possible after the incident is essential!

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For professional legal advice, contact Goldberg & de Villiers Inc on 041 5019800.

BUYING YOUR FIRST HOUSE – AN ACTION PLAN

      “Buy land – they’ve stopped making it” (Mark Twain)

So you’ve decided to buy your first house – exciting! There’s nothing like owning and living in your very own dream house, and if you choose wisely your home could well be one of your most important investments ever.

Get started with these tips

First, understand how much cash you will need

Make a list of all the costs you need to plan for (there are plenty of convenient online calculators to help you figure out what your transfer and bond costs are going to be so Google for one that suits you) –

  • Deposit: Unless you pay the whole purchase price in cash, you will need to raise a bond. You may qualify for a 100% bond, otherwise be ready to pay at least 5% – 10% of the price as a cash deposit. Of course there may be benefit in paying more if you can afford it.
  • Bond registration costs: The bank’s attorneys will register your bond and you will need to pay them the registration costs. The bank will also charge you a bank initiation fee.
  • Transfer costs: Standard procedure (unless your sale agreement provides otherwise) is for you to pay the transfer costs, even though it is usually the seller who chooses the conveyancing attorney.
  • Transfer duty: This government tax is payable unless there’s VAT on the sale, and the sale agreement will almost certainly provide for you to pay it. No duty is payable on a property valued up to R900,000 and a sliding scale applies to houses above that threshold.
  • Associated costs: Make a list – moving, redecorating, furnishing, Internet connections and so on. Don’t forget this step, these costs can add up alarmingly!

So what’s your price range?

You now have your figure for one-off costs, but before you finalise your budget make provision also for all your new ongoing costs as they will all affect long-term affordability –

  • Recurring and monthly costs: Rates/taxes/levies, homeowner’s insurance, water, electricity and so on. Provide also for both short- and long-term maintenance costs for both home and garden.
  • Your bond repayments: This is the crunch – will you be happy with the lifestyle you can afford after paying your bond every month? When you first apply for a bond shop around for the best interest rate and – this is vital – be absolutely sure that you will always be able to afford the monthly payments, even when (not if) interest rates start rising again.

Get a bank pre-approval here – with today’s restrictions on credit grantors when it comes to responsible lending practices, it will help you gauge affordability. And as a bonus, it gives you a great negotiating tool when you move on to the offer stage!

The end result – you have your budget, that gives you your price range, and you can move on to…

House hunting

Lots of questions to ask yourself here of course –

  • Location, location, location: What area/s will you concentrate on? Where do you want to live? What sort of lifestyle are you after? What amenities do you want close by? Research the area – what are average selling prices in the suburb and is your budget up to it? Do houses in the area have a history of good value growth? What are crime levels like?
  • Searching: With your price range and target area in mind, the “thrill of the hunt” is at last upon you! Online searches are increasingly popular but choose whichever channel or channels you are comfortable with.
  • If buying in a community scheme: Check what Rules and Regulations you are letting yourself in for – you will be held to them. Make sure that the Home Owners Association or Body Corporate’s finances are sound (ask for audited financials and management accounts). Ask about any special levies or other planned expenditure on the horizon (get it in writing).
  • Plans, defects and the rest: Ask for copies of approved building plans (check for any unlawful structures or deviations from plan), look for and ask about defects like leaking roofs, problem foundations etc – consider getting a full professional report unless you are very sure of your own abilities in this regard.

Approach your choosing and purchasing decision as though it’s the most important financial decision you will ever make (it may well be).

Making an offer, and the legal bits

So now you’re ready to make your offer on a house. Excitement mounts – will the seller accept? Or perhaps counter-offer? You can’t wait to find out. You are presented with a Deed of Sale, a pen and a cheerful “just sign here, we’ll do the rest”.

Hold on a second!

Take no chances here. Before you sign anything, have your lawyer check the paperwork for you, with a Deeds Office search for anything that may affect your decision-making such as restrictive title deed conditions, servitudes (giving other people rights over your property) etc, etc.

Remember also that with property sales what counts is what’s in writing so tell your lawyer about any verbal undertakings or disclosures given to you.

For professional legal advice, contact Goldberg & de Villiers Inc on 041 501 9800.

GROUNDBREAKING RULING ON MUSLIM MARRIAGES

On 31 August 2018 a full bench of the Western Cape High Court ordered that the State is obliged to implement legislation to recognise Muslim marriages and the consequences thereof within 24 months.

Prior to the judgement, a draft bill to legally recognise Muslim marriages was introduced for public comment, but according to the Minister of Justice the bill was widely opposed as being inconsistent with Sharia law and “unIslamic”.

The Women’s Legal Centre Trust, which said it was aimed at providing Muslim women and their children with legal protection upon divorce, approached the court for an order against the President of South Africa and others to provide legislation to govern Muslim marriages and, in particular, to provide legal protection to the women and their children in relation to divorce and inheritance.

The court declared that the president of the country and other respondents had failed in their constitutional obligation and that the state is obliged to respect, protect and promote the rights to dignity, equality, religion, the best interests of the child and access to courts by enacting legislation to recognise Sharia law marriages. The state was given 24 months to rectify this failure, failing which all marriages validly concluded under Sharia law would be dissolved according to the Divorce Act.

For more information, contact Goldberg & de Villiers Inc on 041 501 9800