Co-owning property with someone else: The ups and downs

B2What is co-ownership?

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

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

The benefits

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

The risks

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

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

Having an agreement

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

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

The agreement should address the following issues:

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

References:

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).

What are mutual wills?

B1The most general mutual will is that of a married couple. This does not mean, however, that the estates are joined and that the Testator and Testatrix have to make a joint decision about the distribution of their estates. Each party may still make independent decisions about the distribution of his/her estate within one will.

As a result, a mutual will is very popular among married couples, but the person who draws up the will, should take into consideration each party’s assets, liabilities and needs regarding inheritance to determine whether he/she should draw up separate wills or a mutual will, i.e. 2 separate wills within one document or one will which determines that merging of the respective or mutual wills should take place.

What mutual wills should contain

In the case of a mutual will there should be a description regarding the execution of the will should the spouses die simultaneously or within a short period, such as 30 days of each other. For argument’s sake, the Testator and Testatrix could be in a car accident. The testator dies and the Testatrix is in a critical condition, rendering her unable to draw up a new will; provision should be made in the will for such scenarios.

Legislation acknowledges the principle of freedom of bequeathment; each person therefore has the right to bequeath his/her assets according to his/her preference. Despite a Testator and Testatrix having a mutual will, one of the parties could decide, for whatever reason, to have another individual will drawn up which is dated later than the mutual will. The surviving spouse will not be able to insist that the mutual will be accepted as the last will and testament.

Amending a mutual will

One party does not need the other party’s permission to amend a mutual will. Each party has the right to draw up a new will at any time, without any obligation to inform the other party thereof. Should the mutual will turn out to be the last will of the deceased, it will become the valid will regarding the deceased, regardless of whether the surviving spouse had already drawn up another will.

Do the estates merge?

Merging of estates takes place when the estates of two people are joined into one upon the death of the first spouse, mainly with the aim of managing an asset in which both parties had an interest. Normally a limited right, such as a usufruct, should be created in terms of any of the assets in the estate to the benefit of the surviving spouse. Even with merging of estates the surviving party has the right to accept or reject the mutual will and the resulting merging of estate assets after the death of the first party. It boils down to the fact that, even where merging of estates is determined in the will, the mutual will does not have much value if the surviving party rejects the stipulations of the will after the death of the deceased party.

The way in which the creation of the merge is worded in a will is of extreme importance, as the wrong choice of words could have a major impact on the payment of policies outside the estate which should fall to the surviving party’s lot. The acceptance or rejection of a will in which a merge was created should also be considered carefully, as there are several implications, e.g. Transfer duty, Donations tax and Capital Gains Tax.

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 is liable for the damages in a car accident?

B2What 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/her family, there will always be legal principles that apply.

What does the law say?

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.

Litigation

An 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.

Insurance claims

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.

Conclusion

In summary, the car owner will be able to hold the third party liable irrespective if he/she has insurance or not. If the car owner has insurance they will be able to claim the damages from the insurance. If he/she 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 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).

Me, my neighbour and that tree

B1The house was just perfect – the right neighbourhood, well-established garden, beautiful trees waving in the breeze with just the right amount of shade next to your swimming pool. And as the trees belong to your neighbour, no need for pruning, said the estate agent. You and your family loved the new home.

Autumn arrived. The leaves have changed and started falling, the swimming pool pump required repairs twice due to blockage and your Saturday golf has been replaced with clearing heaps of leaves. To add to that, a thunder storm ripped a branch off, which broke your electric fence and the wall. Problems with trees from adjacent gardens is an old story.

But what can you do about it?

To merely jump over the fence and prune, or worse, cut down the tree to your satisfaction will not only constitute trespassing but also malicious damage to your neighbour’s property. The courts have carefully considered the basis on which you can approach the court, now generally considered as “nuisance”.

Firstly, you will have to prove to the court that the inconvenience caused to you by your neighbour’s tree is more than you just being sensitive. The inconvenience caused must materially interfere with your ordinary physical comfort and your experience.

The standard that the court will use is that of a normal, reasonable person. The test of reasonableness will be applied, taking into account general norms acceptable to a particular society. Actual damage to your property is not a requirement.

The court will, however, also consider the nuisance, even if the tree(s) is actually causing damage, balancing this with your responsibility to tolerate the natural consequence of the ordinary use of the land. In other words, the court will consider the dispute and the decision will involve balancing the competing interests of you and your neighbour.

Should I care about the environment?

The judgement of Judge De Vos in Vogel vs Crewe and another 2003 (4) SA 50 (T) raised a further very important aspect – the environment.

In a world where trees and nature are considered all the more important for our well-being and that of the earth, careful consideration should be taken before a demand for the cutting down of a tree is granted. Judge De Vos noted that trees form an essential part of our human environment, not only giving us aesthetic pleasure but also being functional in providing shade, food and oxygen. And, like many other living things, trees require, in return for the pleasure provided, a certain amount of effort and tolerance.

With our increasing awareness of the importance of protecting our environment, we need to become more tolerant of the inevitable problems caused by the shrinking size of properties and the greater proximity of neighbours, and consequently, the neighbours’ trees.

Solving the problem peacefully

Before you sell your property and move to another neighbourhood altogether, consider a friendly discussion with your neighbour and his pruning company of choice, from YOUR side of the fence.

Explain to your neighbour which branches of which trees are problematic or show him the cause for your concern. And be willing to reach an agreement somewhere in the middle, taking the type of tree, its form of growth and the balance of the tree into consideration. It will not suffice to demand the removal of a large branch unbalancing the tree which will then fall over during the next storm taking down your wall.

If all your efforts, including friendly letters and e-mailed correspondence fall on deaf ears, you are allowed to prune all branches as from the point that it protrudes over the wall into your property. You are not allowed to lean over the wall to cut those branches at the neighbour’s side of the wall. You will also be responsible for removing the branches from your property after you have pruned the tree in this manner.

So relax and have a good, impartial look at that “offending” tree. Must that tree go? or can you tolerate it with a little pruning?

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).

Be careful what you write or say

B1Many people may not consider the things that they say in public or write online. This is often because of the right of freedom of expression. However, defamation can be a harsh reality for those who believe they can say what they want without consequences.

Typically, the law of defamation attempts to strike a balance between a plaintiff’s right to reputation, and a defendant’s right to freedom of expression – two rights that are recognised both at common law and in the Constitution. Defamation should be considered seriously when interacting with others through letters, e-mails and general discussions.

What if I think someone has defamed me?

You (the plaintiff) would first need to prove that a comment regarding you was publicised (to someone else) and secondly, that the comment was prima facie (obviously) defamatory. Once this has been determined the onus is on the other person (defendant) to prove that his/her conduct was not wrongful. In other words, that they did not intentionally try to defame you.

Wrongfulness is based on intent as opposed to negligence. Even where it remains that the comment was wrongful, the defendant might still have several defences like:

  1. Truth of the statement;
  1. That the comments are in public interest;
  1. That the comment was just an opinion and not given as a fact;
  1. That the comment was fair under the circumstances;
  1. That the comment was made under circumstances of qualified privilege, where the defendant had a duty and someone else had a duty to receive the comment.

But the comment was the truth?

The fact that the comment was the truth does not mean that it isn’t defamatory. The test to determine defamation is whether a reasonable person of normal intelligence would view it as defamatory. The defendant can succeed with his defence of fair comment and public interest if no element of maliciousness is involved. The plaintiff only has to prove that the comment was prima facie defamatory of his/her character and that it was publicised.

So if someone has stolen something, and has been convicted of the crime, it’s not defamatory to call them a thief. However, if someone has only been accused of theft and has not yet been convicted, calling them a thief of out spitefulness could be considered defamatory. This is simply because being called a thief could hurt their reputation and whether or not they stole something has not yet been determined to be true.

Publication can be to a specific person or within hearing distance of the general public and is material if heard by or publicised by the public in a book, postings on websites, or bulletin boards on the Internet. The onus is on the defendant to prove their defences. If there are two versions before a court it should decide on the most probable version under the circumstances.

In a democracy, forthright criticism, wild accusations and innuendos – often unfair and unfounded – are part and parcel of political activity. Right-thinking people in society generally do not think less of politicians who are subjected to derogatory statements by opposing politicians or political commentators. The context might cause material that would otherwise have been defamatory, to be no more than mere abuse. Courts allow wide latitude for political debate and politicians should not be over-hasty in complaining. Nonetheless, it is important to note that courts extend latitude, not immunity, and there are limits. A distinction must also be drawn between an unwarranted attack on the dignity and reputation of a politician and an attack on the person’s political views, policies and conduct. Courts have to give effect to the values of openness, transparency and accountability, yet protect dignity and privacy. It seems that the bounds are exceeded where improper motives or dishonourable conduct is imputed.

References:

  • Law of South Africa, Volume 8(1) – Second Edition Volume
  • Delta Motor Corporation (Pty) Ltd, vs Van der Merwe, 2004 (6) SA 185 (SCA)
  • Constitution of the Republic of SA, 1996 ss 10 and 16
  • National Media Ltd vs Bogoshi, 1998 4 All SA 347 (SCA)

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).

Owning property without a Will

B2If you die without a Will, an administrator will have to be appointed to administer your estate which will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession. As such, your assets may not be distributed as you would have wished. It also means that the process will be delayed and that there will be additional expense and frustration which most people would not want to inflict on their loved ones during a time of loss.

Marriage and property

When drafting your Will, it’s important to consider the nature of your relationship with your ‘significant other’. If you are married in community of property, you only own half of all assets registered in your name and that of your spouse. Your spouse therefore still remains a one half share owner of any fixed property you may want to bequeath to a third party which could potentially present difficulties.

If you are married in terms of the accrual regime, the calculation to determine which spouse has a claim against the other to equalise the growth of the respective estates only occurs at death. Your spouse may therefore have a substantial claim against your estate necessitating the sale of assets you had not intended to be sold.

Alongside your Will, you should also prepare the following in relation to any immovable property you may own:

  1. State where your title deeds are kept and record any outstanding bonds and all insurance
  2. File up-to-date rates and taxes receipts
  3. Record details of the leases on any property you have
  4. State who collects your rent
  5. State who compiles your yearly accounts
  6. State where your water, lights and refuse deposit receipts are kept

If you die without a Will

According to the according to Intestate Succession Act, 1987, your estate will be distributed as follows:

  1. Only spouse survives: Entire estate goes to spouse.
  2. Only descendants survive: Estate is divided between descendants.
  3. Spouse & descendants survive: The spouse gets R250 000 or a child’s share and the balance is divided equally between the spouse and descendants.
  4. Both parents survive: Total share is divided equally between both parents.
  5. One parent: Total Estate goes to the parent.
  6. One parent & descendants: Half the Estate goes to the parent; balance is divided equally amongst descendants.
  7. No spouse; No descendants; No parents; but descendants through mother & descendants through father: Estate divided into two parts: half to descendants through mother; half to descendants through father.
  8. No spouse; No descendants; No parents; No descendants through mother or father: Full Proceeds of the Estate has to be paid into the Guardians Fund in the event of no descendants whatsoever.

References:

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).

What are tenant and landlord duties?

article2_img_blogWhen it comes to letting a property – both the tenant and the landlord should always enter into any letting agreements openly and honestly and intending for each party to get proper value. Often it’s the approach which the parties adopt which will determine whether the relationship between the parties and the benefits they derive therefrom is mutually satisfactory. Furthermore, there are important duties that each party is expected to do.

Non-Statutory Law (Common Law)

The tenant is obliged to:

  • Pay the proper amount of rent in the proper commodity at the proper place and time.
  • Take good care of the property and not use it for other purposes than for which it was let.
  • Restore it to the same condition that he received it at termination of the lease.
  • Common law states simply that the full rent must be paid at the proper time – the time and date agreed by both the tenant and the landlord. It does not provide the tenant with a 7-day grace period.

Statuary Law (The Rental Housing Act)

The tenant is obliged to:

  • Make prompt and regular payment of rent and other charges payable in terms of the lease.
  • Make payment of a deposit – the amount of which should be agreed upfront between the landlord and tenant.
  • Have a joint incoming and outgoing inspection with the landlord.

The property owner

The prime duty of a property owner is to give a tenant occupation and control of the property. Furthermore, the owner has to maintain the property in its proper condition, subject to fair wear and tear (defined as the ‘unavoidable consequence of the passage of time’). The owner must also ensure that normal running repairs to the property are carried out.

A second important duty of the owner is a guarantee that the tenant will enjoy the undisturbed use and enjoyment of the property for the duration of the lease. This duty has three facets:

  • The property owner must not unlawfully interfere with the tenant’s rights although he or she is entitled, in certain circumstances, to interfere lawfully if, for instance, the tenant has to vacate the premises temporarily to allow necessary repairs to be done. Although an owner also has a right of inspection, this right must be exercised in a reasonable manner.
  • The owner must protect the tenant against being disturbed by ‘third parties’ who may claim a stronger right to the property than the tenant. For example, if you sub-let property from a lessee whose lease is invalid (perhaps because it has not been drawn up properly), you could be evicted by the original owner of the property. If this happens, the person who sub-let the property to you is obliged to protect you from being evicted.

Reference:

http://www.privateproperty.co.za/advice/property/articles/tenants-rights-and-obligations/559

http://www.legalcity.net/Index.cfm?fuseaction=RIGHTS.article&ArticleID=2663821

http://www.chaseveritt.co.za/tenant-rights-south-africa

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).

Consider your claim carefully: Some of the need to know facts in the event of a third-party claim against the RAF (Road Accident Fund)

article1_img_blogThe Road Accident Fund (hereinafter referred to as the RAF) has over the years created the assurance that public road users will be covered in the event of any motor vehicle accident which caused either injuries or death, and for the losses suffered thereby, such as medical expenses, loss of earnings and even general damages (damages for pain and suffering).

Before the Road Accident Fund Amendment Act 19 of 2005, which came into operation on 1 August 2008, this had the effect of any person simply being able to institute a claim against the RAF in any event of an accident which amounted to damages suffered as a result of injury or death, or even a claim based on pain and suffering. This sounded simple enough, that is until the Road Accident Fund Amendment Act 19 of 2005 came into operation, placing two very important limitations on claims from the RAF.

The first limitation relates to claiming from the RAF and/or the wrongdoer. In respect of the old Road Accident Fund Act 56 of 1996, the victim who had a limited claim against the RAF, still had a common law claim against the wrongdoer in respect of the excess amount not compensated for by the RAF. This meant that should the road accident victim only be compensated by the RAF for a portion of the damages suffered during the accident, the remaining portion could still be claimed from the wrongdoer in his personal capacity. For example, if victim X suffered damages in the amount of R200 000 and the RAF only compensated the victim in the amount of R150 000, the remaining R50 000 could still be recovered from the wrongdoer in person. This would have the effect of two separate claims. However, should the victim have received full compensation in terms of Section 17 of Act 56 of 1996 for the amount of R200 000, such victim would not have another claim against the wrongdoer.

In terms of the new Road Accident Fund Amendment Act this common law right has been abolished by the institution of Section 21 of the Road Accident Fund Amendment Act. The victim will currently only be able to claim/recover losses or damages suffered as a result of a motor vehicle accident from the RAF. There can be no more separate claims in respect of one cause of action.

The second important amendment is a part of Section 21 which places a cap on the amount of loss of earnings claimed and the amount of general damages claimed, i.e. damages claimed for pain and suffering.

With regard to the capped amount allowed to claim for loss of earnings, a victim is only allowed to claim damages up to the amount of R160 000, but this amount changes quarterly according to the fluctuation in interest rates and currently it stands at R201 337 per annum as from October 2012. Should the victim earn a salary of more than the said amount per annum, he or she will be unable to institute such a claim against the RAF. / Should the victim earn a salary of more than the said amount per annum, his or her claim will be limited to the amount dictated by the Law.

Furthermore, with regard to a claim for  based on injuries suffered, the claim will only succeed if the victim can prove that he/she has suffered “serious injuries” as defined in the Act. This would amount to injuries sustained which has ultimately rendered such victim at least 30% disabled in his or her everyday life. This limitation does not take into consideration any personal circumstances. Similarly, no common law right exists to institute a second claim against the wrongdoer in the event of failure against the RAF.

Also important to remember is the fact that when consideration is given to medical expenses suffered, the amount is calculated according to the rate charged at a public level (public hospital rates) and not at a private level (private hospital rates).

In conclusion, it is important to remember that the RAF takes over the liability of the wrongdoer in such accidents, meaning that actions must be instituted against the RAF and not the wrongdoer in the first instance. The exception is where the RAF is unable to pay compensation or where emotional shock is suffered. In such a case, the action may be instituted against the wrongdoer in person. Any action instituted against the RAF is a time-consuming process and requires due consideration before proceeding. Section 21 of the Road Accident Fund Amendment Act has definitely placed limitations on claims that need to be borne in mind.

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).

Traffic Officer confiscates my cell phone: What you should know!

Summary

Since 2011 the City of Cape Town: Traffic By-Law, 2011 has made it possible for an authorised officer to confiscate your cellular device if you are caught using it in your car while driving. If you end up getting caught red-handed, these are a few things you should know to make sure that all the correct procedures are followed when your cellular device gets confiscated.

Article

The City of Cape Town: Traffic By-Law, 2011 (hereinafter “the By-Law”) prohibits driving a motor vehicle on a public road, firstly, while holding a cellular or mobile telephone or any communications device with any part of the body and, secondly, while using or operating a cellular or mobile telephone or other communication device unless it is affixed to the vehicle (like a handsfree kit).[1]

According to the By-Law an authorised officer may, in the interest of public safety, confiscate a handheld communication device if he informs the owner of such device of the reasons for doing so. He must issue a receipt to the owner, stating the place at which such device may be claimed, and he must follow all procedures contained in any policy of the city dealing with the confiscation and impoundment of property.[2] The policy applicable in the City of Cape Town is called the Standard Operating Procedure on the Impoundment of Goods and Animals, 2012.

An authorised official exercising authority in terms of any By-Law of the City to impound goods, shall issue to the offending party a receipt for any property removed and impounded. This receipt must indicate:

  1. A list of the property to be removed and impounded;
  2. the physical condition of the goods (to ensure that they are returned in the same physical condition that they were in when impounded);
  3. the address where the impounded goods will be kept;
  4. the hours during which the goods may be collected;
  5. the maximum period for storage of goods before they are disposed of;
  6. the conditions for the release of the impounded goods;
  7. the name and office number of a council official to whom any representation regarding the impoundment may be made;
  8. the date and time by when representation must be made;
  9. the terms and conditions relating to the sale of unclaimed goods, by public auction, where no claim (and/or representation) is received.[3]

The City may sell any cellular device that hasn’t been claimed within ninety days after the date of impoundment through public auction which shall be advertised in local newspapers. Municipal officials and councillors, their spouses, relatives and acquaintances are prohibited from purchasing any of these impounded goods. Fees may be levied for the storage of the cellular device and any other expense incurred by the Council during impoundment. Said fees shall be determined by Council and may be adjusted from time to time. Fees and fines shall be paid at the Council cash office between the hours of 08:00 and 16:00 on Mondays to Fridays.[4]

Goods may be returned to the owner, or his or her representative, upon presentation of proof of payment of all fees related to the impounding and storage of the goods and any fines imposed prior to and/or during impoundment. Owners or their representatives can collect their goods during the hours and at the venue indicated in the impoundment notice served on the offender.[5]

Officials of the City must take reasonable steps to prevent any damage to impounded goods; however, it will not be responsible for any damage caused to goods where a reasonable duty of care was exercised. Digital photographs shall be taken of all impounded goods.[6]

A person who contravenes a provision of this By-Law commits an offence and a person who commits such an offence is, on conviction, liable for a fine or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 years, or both.[7]

Reference List:

  • The Standard Operating Procedure on the Impoundment of Goods and Animals, 2012
  • The City of Cape Town: Traffic By-Law, 2011
  • [1] S 38(1) of the City of Cape Town: Traffic By-Law.
  • [2] S 38(4) of the City of Cape Town: Traffic By-Law.
  • [3] S 8, S 9 of the Standard Operating Procedure on the Impoundment of Goods and Animals, 2012.
  • [4] S 10, S 11 of the Standard Operating Procedure on the Impoundment of Goods and Animals.
  • [5] S 12 of the Standard Operating Procedure on the Impoundment of Goods and Animals.
  • [6] S 16 of the Standard Operating Procedure on the Impoundment of Goods and Animals.
  • [7] S 39 of the City of Cape Town: Traffic By-Law.

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).

My dog just attacked someone

a1Due to circumstances beyond your control your dog bites someone. There is blood, an injury, and a shocked and angry victim. Luckily it is a small wound, but before you can mouth an apology, the traumatised person storms off with the words: “You’ll pay for this; see you in court!”

Are you liable for the damage caused by your dog?

Well, you could be, depending on the circumstances. Damages caused by a pet can be claimed from the owner through the Actio de Pauperie. You will be liable for damages if the complainant is successful in proving:

  1. that you were the owner of the animal at the time of infliction of the injury;
  2. that the animal is domesticated;
  3. that the animal acted contrary to the nature of a domesticated animal; and
  4. that the conduct of the animal caused the plaintiff’s damage.

How can you defend your dog?

The onus will be on you, as owner of the dog, to prove a valid defence. You will not be liable for the complainant’s damages if you can successfully prove:

  1. that your poor dog was provoked by the culpable conduct of the complainant;
  2. that someone else was in charge of your dog when the injury was inflicted, in other words a third party had control over the animal and the damage occurred due to that person’s negligence;
  3. the unlawful presence of the plaintiff on the premises, in other words that the injured person had no legal right to be there;
  4. that the plaintiff knew of the risk and voluntarily accepted the risk; and
  5. that the owner is not responsible for damages caused by his animal in terms of an existing indemnity agreement between the parties.

The circumstances and actions of the injured person will determine what happens. If someone came onto your property uninvited and got attacked by your dog, then it’s not your fault. However, if you were walking your dog in the park and they randomly attacked someone, without being provoked, then you are liable.

Owning a dog can be a very rewarding experience and a boundless source of unconditional love, but at the same time it also brings great responsibility. If you own a dog, you also have a responsibility to prevent it from causing harm to anyone or their property.

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).