Category Archives: Property Law

Moving house safely

B1We’ve all felt like it – the hairs on the back of your neck standing up, sure someone is keeping an eye on you, watching as you receive a DVD box set that was for some reason labelled “essential” on the online store, sneaking in at 09:20 after the morning jog you were sure was shorter yesterday, or absent-mindedly fixing your mask as you stand in the chocolate aisle at the supermarket.

Feeling like you are crossing a line has become part of daily life and moving during the lockdown may have many people feeling just as guilty.
But as with most regulations, things have changed (except for the mask part – it’s best to just ignore the tickle till you get to your car). Moving during Level 3 is allowed, and with the effects of the lockdown touching so many lives, a very possible occurrence as landlords and tenants alike seek their footing.

The good news is that moving safely is entirely possible.

The most important element is following adequate safety measurements throughout the process. Businesses operating under Level 3 are all required to have an adequate safety plan in place, with a COVID-19 Compliance Officer that oversees the company’s compliance with the necessary preventative measures. These requirements ensure that estate agents and transport companies keep every person involved in the move safe. These are the most important guidelines to follow when moving:

  • Get the necessary permits from a SAPS office that will allow you to travel during the lockdown.
  • Adhere to social distancing and keep a minimum of 1,5m between yourself and the transport team.
  • Have sanitiser handy to offer to all parties before and after the move.
  • Sanitise the surfaces of the old property once furniture has been removed; sanitise surfaces in the new property both before and after furniture has been moved in, as well as the furniture itself.
  • Be kind with your words, not your actions, for the time being.

These precautions are there for a reason. The real estate industry relies heavily on multi-channel interaction and is, consequently, at high risk. This has been seen in the Johannesburg and Pretoria deeds offices, which were forced to close temporarily on June 12 after conveyancers in the building were tested positive for the virus, and the Cape Town deeds office, which has already closed twice for the same reasons.

While moving is allowed, tenants are still encouraged to move into a new safety bubble only if it is truly necessary. When moving is truly the only option, ensure that the necessary safety precautions are adhered to.

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)

The rental relationship during lockdown

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The relationship between landlord and tenant is a symbiotic one, where the efforts of either party results in the best outcome for both parties. During the lockdown, this two-way relationship between many tenants and landlords has been threatened. The biggest contributor to this is quite simple: a lack of information.

Paying your dues

One of the biggest impacts the lockdown has had on tenants is through affected income. Unfortunately, tenants are still required to pay the full rental amount if they are still able to occupy the property, regardless of how their income has been affected. Where income has been affected, tenants should discuss the possibility of a reduced rent directly with their landlords.
Landlords, however, also rely on rental income and cannot always afford to lower rental amounts. When this is the case, tenants can, technically, apply to the Rental Housing Tribunal to request a reduction in rent, but due to new cases not being heard at the moment, such a request is unlikely to be successful. The best option is for tenants to apply for State assistance, and so ensuring the least impact on both parties.
With these types of requests, it is important to note that landlords will have to be furnished with relevant personal information of the tenant to corroborate a tenant’s inability to pay their rent. The landlord will, however, be responsible for guarding the privacy of their tenant’s personal information in such a case.

Sticking to the rules

Even when the relationship is no longer a beneficial one, and becomes filled with strife, landlords may not terminate a lease or refuse services to tenants and may not insist on conducting an investigation of the property without the tenant’s express permission. Similarly, tenants may not cancel their leases during this time either. Such “threatening” actions are highly discouraged while the country is in any level of the lockdown.
As before, a tenant’s deposit may not legally be used to cover rental arrears, but only for its intended post-rental purposes. Deposits, along with the accrued interest, must be refunded to the tenants upon their exit, where only the necessary cost of repairs may be deducted.
Landlords are also still responsible for the maintenance of their properties, and for ensuring liveable conditions for their tenants. During any maintenance procedures landlords and workmen are obliged to adhere to social distancing and must follow adequate sanitising methods throughout. The landlord must also provide the necessary clothing and equipment for the procedures to be completed themselves.

End of lease

But while tenants may not be evicted and leases may not be terminated, the reality is that leases do come to an end. As far as possible, tenants and landlords are encouraged to continue their relationship, even if just on a month-to-month basis until moving house can be done without safety hazard. Where the continuance of a lease is not possible, tenants should obtain a permit from the SAPS allowing them to move freely during their relocation, and follow strict safety measures throughout the process.

For more information, visit the Western Cape Government’s information page.

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)

Has your cabin given you the fever?

B2At the end of the national lockdown, many South Africans will have gotten to know their properties better than the architects who designed them. For some, this time will lead to ways they plan to improve their homes, for others, it will leave them desperately wanting to never see the same four walls again. But how do you enter the buying market again after the lockdown?

The answer is, with extra care. While buying property is never something to step into lightly, the chances of making an impulsive decision once you’ve tasted freedom again are a lot higher than they were before. The best advice would be to treat the experience as if nothing has changed. For the real estate market, this may even be somewhat true.

The real estate market has proven time and again that it is able to recover from even the worst crises, whether it be financial, social or medical. The reason for the market’s stability lies in its properties’ stability. While stock markets crash and abstract financial concepts such as inflation crumble during a pandemic, properties continue to stand unaffected. And while stock trading is quite low on the priority list during a worldwide pandemic, such as the COVID-19 outbreak, a priority that is still at the top is the need for housing. The real estate market, by nature, prevails.

So once the lockdown is lifted, don’t rush things. Use the same diligent consideration in every decision and make sure you invest accordingly.

That said, there is one way in which the lockdown should influence your purchase. Use the negative experiences and shortfalls of your current (or soon to be previous) home to help guide you towards what it is you truly need and want in a home. An experience that may have seemed negative will help you to create a clear vision of what your next home should be.

Once the lockdown has lifted, precautionary measures may still be put in place, especially regarding social distancing, nevermind people’s own fears of entering society again. The future introduction of the Electonic Deeds Registration System, which was promulgated in 2019, will further assist the restoration of the property market even as the scare of the pandemic continues to loom over the country even long after the lockdown has been lifted.

This electronic platform will allow property ownership to be transferred without having to set a foot inside a cramped government office, effectively continuing social distancing and creating a more efficient conveyancing process.

So keep calm and plan your property comeback accordingly.

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)

The effects of expropriation without compensation

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For many whose homes are where their hearts are, the Draft Expropriation Bill, 2019, which seeks to legalise land expropriation without compensation, is proving to be of great concern, especially after it was released for comment on 21 December 2019.

The biggest concern is what effect the expropriation will have on existing property loans — a concern that the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, confirmed has not been addressed. Didiza stated that the banks were not consulted to discuss what impact a lack of compensation would have on property loans and unpaid debt.

The amendment aims to expropriate land without compensation. But when the land that is being expropriated is still being paid off and the title does not yet fully belong to the landowner, the party that is not being compensated will be the bank. But due to a lack of detail, the Bill never states that the loan repayments to the bank will cease, it simply states that the new landowner will not have to pay them.

While a landowner cannot logically be expected to pay off land that no longer belongs to them, both Nedbank and SA Home Loans have confirmed that that would be the case. Property loans will have to be paid off as contractually agreed to, even when the land or property no longer belongs to the bond owner. If the bank is not compensated and stops receiving loan repayments, it will be forced to write off billions of Rands’ debt, resulting in utter devastation in the economy. If landowners are forced to pay for land and property that no longer belongs to them, it will undoubtedly result in civil unrest and, once again, devastation in the economy.

The problem with the Bill is the fact that it does not state any of this directly. The primary issue is not in what the Bill says, but in what it does not.

This is illustrated further in its definition of “land”, or rather it’s lack thereof. The proposed amendment does not confine the term “land” to agricultural land that is unoccupied and not utilised to its fullest potential. As it currently stands, the amendment will include urban and residential land and property, whether occupied or not, meaning every property or bond owner’s land/property may be expropriated while they will still be contractually bound to their loan down-payments.

Shockingly enough, Melanie Verwoerd has stated that the primary focus of the policy would, in fact, be urban land even though many have defended the policy, stating this would not be the case. The fact is that whether or not urban reform is the main intention or not, the current wording does make it a possibility.

The initial submission of comments ended on 31 January 2020. That period has been extended to 29 February 2020.

Now, we wait and see.

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)

A developer’s obligations to existing lessees when establishing a sectional title scheme

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A developer who wishes to establish a sectional title scheme on a piece of land where there is an existing building, has certain statutory obligations should the building be wholly or partially let for residential purposes. This is not applicable to commercial leases. The Sectional Titles Act 95 of 1986, (the Act), as amended, requires the developer to submit a draft sectional plan to the Surveyor-General for approval. However, before the plans can be submitted, the developer has to comply with Section 4(3) of the Act.

This section imposes a duty of notification on the developer. Every lessee of the proposed sectional title scheme building has to receive a notice, in writing, by way of a letter delivered either personally or by registered post. This letter has to give notice of a meeting to be held at least 14 days after the delivery or dispatch of the letter, at the building or at a location within a reasonable distance of the building. It should convey the fact that the developer intends to be available to provide such particulars of the relevant scheme as they may reasonably require, and furthermore provide information regarding the lessees’ rights as contemplated in Section 10 of the Act. The developer is also required to provide a certificate of prescribed particulars relating to the scheme with the letter. The particulars are peremptory and briefly-stated, include the following:

  • The name of the scheme.
  • The description and extent of the land upon which the building is situated.
  • The full names and address of the developer.
  • The title deed number of the land.
  • The number and description of units in the scheme.
  • The number of garages and parking places provided for.
  • A land surveyor or engineer’s report in respect of the general physical condition of the building, specifically if there are any defects in the building.
  • A specified estimate of the annual expenditure in respect of the repair, upkeep, control, management and administration of the common property, payment of rates and taxes and other local authority charges, the charges for the supply of electricity, water, sanitation and other services, insurance premiums, all other costs recovered in respect of the common property which are normally recovered from the owners of units.

The developer has to confirm that the meeting has been held as provided for unless all the lessees have, in writing, stated that they are aware of their rights and they do not wish to purchase the proposed units which they occupy. Section 10 of the Act essentially provides a lessee with a right of pre-emption, restricting the developer to first offer the occupied unit to the lessee who was entitled to receive the notice letter. Should the developer act to the contrary and offer the lease to another party, that contract will be void.

The lessee has 90 days from the receipt of the offer to purchase in which to accept or refuse the offer. Should the offer be refused, the developer may not within a period of 180 days from the refusal by the lessee sell the unit to any other person for a lower price without first offering it to the lessee. The lessee then has 60 days in which to accept or refuse the new offer. During these periods (i.e. from the date of the notification letter and subsequent offers to purchase), the developer may not, subject to the lessee occupying the unit and complying with the conditions of the lease, require the lessee to vacate the premises or increase the rent payable (unless the lease agreement makes provision for such an increase during these periods).

The Act provides that a developer, or any person who has performed partially or fully in terms of a void contract, shall have a claim against the other party to the extent of such performances. The developer can, in addition, claim reasonable compensation for the use of the unit and claim compensation for any damages caused by the person thereto. The other party may claim interest on any payment made from date of payment, as well as reasonable compensation for any expenses incurred by him or any improvements subject to conditions and compensation for damages or loss which he would have been entitled to claim from the developer on the grounds of breach of contract, had the contract not been void.

Finally, the Act imposes criminal sanctions on a non-compliant developer, imposing either a fine of R2,000.00 or imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or to both.

It is clear that the legislature intends to protect and secure a lessee’s rights by imposing an obligation of notice of the proposed development and by granting an obligatory statutory right of pre-emption in favour of the lessee by the developer. The intention to protect a lessee’s common law rights, as found in the maxim “huur gaat voor koop”, is thus clear.

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)

Has your braai been approved?

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Every HOA has applicable building guidelines which are stipulated in a Constitution or Memorandum of Incorporation (“MOI”) which every homeowner should be made aware of, read and understood. The guidelines will differ from estate to estate and it is important for the homeowners to adhere to these provisions.

When one wants to erect a building structure on one’s property, written plans have to be lodged with the Homeowners’ Association for consideration. The plans must be within the building guidelines provided for in the Constitution or MOI and based on that, the HOA together with their architect will make a finding. If one erects a structure without these plans, a complaint may be lodged with the municipality and one may receive a notice to obtain written approval for the authorised building work following a summons to appear in court.

The notice to be served on a homeowner who has erected any building, excluding a temporary building, is being or has been erected without prior approval from the local authority shall be served with a notice, calling upon him/her to obtain the approval, in writing, as required by The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act No. 103 of 1977 (“the Act”), by a date specified in such notice.  Failure to comply with such a notice may constitute to a criminal offence in terms of Regulation A25(11) of the Act.

If the homeowner fails to comply with the notice, the following procedural step will be a Summons in a Criminal Case. The charges may be based on the contravention of S4(1) of the Act, which states that no person shall without prior approval, in writing, of the local authority in question erect any building in respect of which plans and specifications are to be drawn and submitted in terms of such Act. In addition, Section 4(4) of the Act which states that any person erecting any building in contravention of Section 4(1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding R100 for each day on which he was engaged in erecting such building.

Due to the homeowner failing to comply with the notice first served, he/she will then be charged with the contravention of Regulation A25 (10) of the Act as well. In essence, he/she would then be charged with the Count 1, the contravention of Section 4(1) and Section 4(4) of the Act and Count 2, contravention of Regulation A25(10).

The penalty awarded to an accused if found guilty will be decided on a case-by-case basis. The Court may consider the nature and the amount of the penalty, the aim of the penalty, which is to compel compliance with the Constitution or the MOI.

The Act makes provision for a general penalty clause where any person convicted of an offence under this Act in respect of which a fine or imprisonment is not exceeding R600 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 6 months and Section 4(4) of the Act makes provision for a person to be found guilty of an offence and may be found liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding R100 for each day on which he/she was engaged in erecting such building. However, the court may reduce the penalty to such an extent as it deems equitable or reasonable in the circumstances.

It is clear from the above that the consequences of erecting a structure on one’s property without approved written building plans could be hefty and is something that can be easily avoided when one exercises a bit of patience.

Reference List:

  • The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act No. 103 pf 1977 (as amended)

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)

Unlawfully evicted? Here’s a piece of PIE

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Unless the sheriff of the court has evicted you, you should remain right where you are. If anyone else carries out an eviction, it constitutes as unlawful according to the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land (PIE) Act.

Regarding the eviction process, the PIE Act stipulates this:

  • Certain procedures must be followed
  • Notice of the intention of getting a court order must be given to the tenant
  • The landowner or landlord must apply to the court to have a written notice served on the tenant
  • The notice must be served at least 14 days before the hearing

The Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT) works alongside the Rental Housing Act, fostering the relationship between landlords and tenants to be one of fairness in terms of lease agreements and any unlawful evictions and unlawful notices to vacate. From the moment the lease agreement terms have been breached, for example, the tenant fails to make rent payments, the landlord may cancel the agreement and the tenant then becomes an illegal occupier.

The PIE Act states that no one may be without property except in terms of law of general application.  Arbitrary deprivation of property from any person is unlawful. Additionally:

  • no one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances;
  • it is desirable that the law should regulate the eviction of unlawful occupiers from land in a fair manner, while recognising the right of land owners to apply to a court for an eviction order in appropriate circumstances;
  • special consideration should be given to the rights of the elderly, children, disabled persons and particularly households headed by women, and it should be recognised that the needs of those groups should be considered.

The notice does not guarantee that the unlawful tenant will leave the premises as the court can only grant eviction if it is just and equitable. The owner must also have reasonable grounds for eviction and alternative accommodation available to the tenant.

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)

The termination of joint ownership

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Nature of joint ownership:

Joint owners own undivided shares in the property which they own jointly. Consequently, the joint owners cannot divide the joint property while the joint ownership remains in existence, and a joint owner also cannot alienate the property or a part thereof without the consent of the other joint owner. The rights in respect of the joint property need to be exercised jointly by the owners thereof.

Ways in which joint ownership can arise:

Joint ownership can come into existence by way of an inheritance in which an indivisible property is left to more than one person in indivisible shares; by way of a marriage in community of property, by the mixture of movable property in such a way that it forms a new movable item or by way of an agreement in terms of which the parties agree to jointly buy a property and that both will have equal indivisible shares in the property.

Division of joint property:

Any joint owner can claim the division of the joint property according to that joint owner’s share in the property.[1] It is a requirement for the division of the joint property that the parties need to try to divide the property among themselves first, before approaching the Court for an action to divide the property, which action is called the actio communi dividendo[2].

The underlying principle of the actio communi dividendo is that no co-owner is normally obliged to remain such against his will. If there is a refusal on the part of one of the co-owners to divide, then the other co-owner can go to Court and ask the Court to order the other to partition. The Court has a wide discretion in making a division of the joint property, which is similar to the discretion which a court has in respect of the mode of distribution of partnership assets among partners.

The Court may award the joint property to one of the owners provided that he/she compensate the other co-owner, or cause the joint property to be put up to auction and the proceeds divided among the co-owners.[3]  Where there is no agreement between the parties as to how the joint assets are to be divided a liquidator is ordinarily appointed, and he can then sell the assets and divide the proceeds, if it is not possible to divide the assets between the parties.[4] If the immediate division of the joint property will be detrimental to the parties, the Court can order in certain cases that the division or the sale of the property be postponed for a period.[5]

It is beneficial that there exist means to divide assets which are jointly owned by parties, who no longer wish to be co-owners, but who cannot reach an agreement on the division of the assets. Without such an action, people might be stuck with a property which they derive no benefit from because it is in the possession of the other co-owner, who refuse to sell the property.

  • [1] Inleiding tot die sakereg, Van Niekerk & Pienaar, Juta, p 53 – 61.
  • [2] Robson v Theron 1978 (1) SA 841 (A).
  • [3] 1978 (1) SA 841 (A).
  • [4] 1978 (1) SA 841 (A).
  • [5] Van Niekerk & Pienaar, p 61 – 62.

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)

Does living in a secured estate give a false sense or true sense of security?

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Choosing to live in a secured residential estate in South Africa is becoming ever more popular with South Africans. Entering your estate whilst security guards watch out for unknown assailants that may enter, living in your home peacefully knowing that the security guards are ensuring that people may only enter with your permission, giving the home owners a sense of security. But is this a true sense of security or is it false, and if the unfortunate happens that you are robbed or assaulted in your home, who is responsible? The Home Owners’ Association? The security company?

A Home Owners’ Association (HOA) is a body/committee comprising of the home owners of a specific estate entrusted with the running of the estate and communal affairs of those that own homes there.

On the 28th of August 2018, Judge J Unterhalter of the Gauteng Local Divison High Court handed down judgment in a matter of Van der Bijl and Another vs Featherbrooke Home Owners’ Association and Another. The Van der Bijls, home owners in a secured estate, brought an action against the (HOA) and the security company for failing to secure their safety, as their property was invaded by robbers.

On the 8th of April 2014, robbers unlawfully gained access into the estate during the night and then proceeded to enter the Van der Bijls’ home. Mr Van der Bijl suffered a gunshot wound to his abdomen and Mrs Van der Bijl sustained injuries from being assaulted. Due to these injuries, the Van der Bijls claimed damages from the HOA and the security company, alleging that the HOA and security company were wrongful in their duty to care and were negligent as they failed to take measures to ensure their safety.

The HOA defended the action and took exception to the Van der Bijls’ cause of action, citing that the HOA did not have a legal duty to take steps to protect the Van der Bijls from the robbery, thus there was no wrongfulness or negligence on their part. The court’s stance is that wrongfulness and negligence are two separate requirements of Aquilian liability. Where wrongfulness concerns the issue as to whether the law imposes liability by recognising a legal duty resting upon the defendant to prevent the harm that the plaintiff suffered, negligence concerns the defendant’s conduct judged against the standard of whether a reasonable person would have foreseen the harm and guarded against it, inter alia, a defendant may be burdened with a legal duty to prevent a harm, but his/her conduct may be blameless because the harm was not reasonably foreseeable. Thus, a defendant may be negligent but not act wrongfully because there was no duty to prevent the harm.

The HOA took exception to the plaintiff’s particulars of claim inter alia, it did not have a legal duty to protect the Van der Bijls from the robbery, citing that the Van der Bijls did not make a case for Aqulian liability as there was no wrongfulness. The plaintiff’s counsel relied heavily on the decision of the Loureiro case, wherein the Constitutional Court held that a private security company, who was employed and remunerated for crime preventing, owed a duty to stop avoidable harm. The Constitutional Court went to express the opinion that there would be wholesome deterrent effect if private security firms were not insulated from their own mistakes. Thus, the plaintiff’s counsel submitted that, as in the Loureiro case, the security company employed by the HOA had a duty to protect the residents of the estate including the Van der Bijls and the HOA bears the same duty. But the two cases do not bear the same facts, inter alia, Loureiro did not decide that Mr Loureiro, by hiring a security firm, was under any duty to secure the house, it was the security company that owed the duty to protect Mr Loureiro and his family. So the fact that the HOA employed the security company to provide security for the estate does not simply follow on that the HOA owed the same duty as that assumed by the security company. Such a duty would have to be shown to exist apart from what the security company had undertaken to do. But yes, following the logic of Loureiro, it is the security company that owed a duty to the HOA and the members it represents.

Hence the Van der Bijls may have recourse against the security company and they are one of the defendants. Further, it was noted that the robbers/assailants that caused the harm were not sued and which the plaintiff will have a claim against.

While the Van der Bijls definitely enjoy fundamental rights to security of the person, bodily, physical and psychological integrity, dignity and privacy, and these rights were infringed by being assaulted in their home, the big question is from whom can these rights be claimed. The answer is, you will have a   claim against the assailants, and based on the Loureiro case, the security company, but the Judge failed to see how the HOA, which is an extension of the collective will of the estate home owners, is burdened with the duties to secure these rights. Should the home owners be burdened with these duties, then the question is, does my neighbour have a duty to protect me in my home? He or she may come to your aid and he/she may be described as being valiant to do so but it is not out of duty. Further, there was no contractual obligation, be it in the Memorandum of Agreement or written agreement  between the HOA and the home owners,  holding the HOA liable for protecting the Van der Bijls.

In conclusion, the court found that the plaintiff’s particulars of claim did not set out a cause of action, which follows that the HOA did not have a legal duty to protect the home owners, in particular, the van der Bijls, hence not wrongful.

So, the next time you are thinking of buying a property in an estate, make sure you read the Memorandum of Agreement and understand your rights as a home owner.

Reference List:

  • Van der Bijl and Another v Featherbrooke Estate Home Owners’ Association (NPC) and Another; In Re: Featherbrooke Estate Home Owners’ Association (NPC) v Van der Bijl (12360/2017) [2018] ZAGPJH 544; 2019 (1) SA 642 (GJ) (23 August 2018)

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)

Matrimonial property regimes

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My partner and I are getting married soon and have heard about the different matrimonial property regimes one can enter but I am not sure what the difference is and what each one entails.

There are three types of matrimonial property regimes in South Africa. The three are marriage in community of property, marriage out of community of property with the inclusion of the accrual system and marriage out of community of property with the exclusion of the accrual system. When parties decide on either of the two latter, they must enter into a contractual agreement with one another before a notary public. It is important to understand what they all entail before one gets married.

Marriage in community of property is the so-called “default” regime, because all marriages are deemed to be in community of property if an Antenuptial Contract is not concluded before the marriage. This is also the most popular regime because it is the easiest one to conclude. When two parties get married in community of property, their estates will be joined together. Every asset and liability each party had before getting married and acquires during the marriage will become one estate and on dissolution of the marriage, the estate will be divided equally between the parties.

This system is based on the theory that each spouse, whether employed or at home running the household, contributes equally to the marriage and on dissolution of the marriage is entitled to share equally in the joint estate. It is important to note that when one enters this type of matrimonial regime, in some instances consent will be needed from the other party. One of the biggest disadvantages of this system is that if one party incurs debt, the debt will form part of the joint estate.

When one enters into a marriage out of community of property with the accrual system, it means that the parties entered into a contractual agreement with one another, which is known as an Antenuptial Contract. This contract must be entered into before a notary public and has to be registered at the Deeds Office. In this regime, the two estates of the spouses before the marriage remain separate. No consent will be needed from the other spouse in order to handle his/her own affairs. The accrual system will be applicable at the dissolution of the marriage or upon death, whichever may occur first.

What happens with the accrual is that whatever the parties acquired during the existence of the marriage, will be compared and the half of the difference in accrual will be owed by the estate which shows a larger accrual. On dissolution of a marriage out of community of property with the accrual system, inheritances and donations received by a spouse from a third party will not be included in the accrual.

In a marriage out of community of property without the accrual system, each party’s estate will remain separate. This system enables parties to control their own estate and affairs independently and on the dissolution of marriage, the parties will retain their own assets and liabilities. It is important to note that even if parties are married out of community of property excluding the accrual system, both parties will have to contribute to the household as a married couple – it is one of the duties that arises from marriage.

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)