Category Archives: Property Law

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)

Private use of groundwater resources in the Cape Town Metropole: How is it regulated?

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This article will provide a brief overview of how the abstraction and usage of groundwater resources are regulated, with specific reference to the Cape Town Metropole which has made headlines over the past few years for being one of the first big metropoles in the world to almost run out of this valuable resource.

The usage of groundwater in the Western Cape is regulated by three important pieces of legislation, namely the National Water Act (1998), the Water By-law (2010) and the Water Amendment By-law (2018). It is from the outset important to note that all groundwater in South Africa has been a national resource since 1998 as per the preamble of the National Water Act and no private person may thus use and abuse water which they abstract on their private property as they wish.

Installation of mechanisms to abstract groundwater:

Groundwater is most commonly abstracted by way of a borehole, well-point, or well. This article will only refer to boreholes as the relevant legislation defines a borehole as a “hole sunk into the earth for the purpose of locating, abstracting or using subterranean water, and includes a spring, well and well-point”. This definition is thus broad enough to include almost any method of abstracting groundwater.

The City of Cape Town requires a property owner who plans to sink or dig a borehole to notify the director in writing at least 14 days before such action of his or her intention to do so. The “director” is defined in the City’s by-law as the employee of the City who is responsible for water and sanitation. This notice must also inform the director of the exact location where one intends to sink or dig the borehole, as well as the purpose for which the groundwater will be used for.

It is furthermore important to take note of section 57 of the Water By-law which requires the owner of a premises on which a borehole is located to ensure that:
(a) the borehole is adequately safeguarded from creating a health nuisance;
(b) the borehole is not filled in a way or with material that may cause an adjacent well, borehole or underground source of water to become polluted or contaminated; and
(c) no interconnection is made between a water installation supplied from the main and any other source of water supply, meaning that your groundwater system may not in any way be connected to the municipal water supply system.

Section 61 of the Water By-law is also important to take note of as it states that the owner of a premises on which non-potable water, which includes groundwater, is used must ensure that “every terminal water fitting and every appliance which supplies or uses the water is clearly marked with a weatherproof notice indicating that such water is unsuitable for domestic purposes”. This notice must be in three official languages and must be clearly visible.

Usage of the groundwater:

It is important to note that groundwater may not be used for domestic purposes. Water is deemed to be used for domestic purposes when it is used for drinking, ablution and culinary purposes, excluding water used for toilets and urinals. You may thus use your borehole water for any non-domestic purpose, subject to certain restrictions. One such restriction relates to the watering of your garden. The Water Amendment By-law of the City of Cape Town states that no garden may be watered between the hours of 09h00 and 18h00, and watering within the permitted hours may not exceed one hour in duration.

Complying with the above-mentioned regulations is important for two main reasons. Groundwater is a limited resource which must be used sparingly. Scientists have warned that lower rainfall figures will become the norm due to factors such as global warming. Furthermore, the preamble of the National Water Act emphasises the fact that water must be used in a sustainable manner and that it must be used to the benefit of all people. Another very important consideration is that non-compliance with any of the above regulations is an offence and a person who is convicted of such an offence shall be liable to pay a fine or to serve a term of imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

Readers who are not resident in the Cape Town Metropole are strongly encouraged to check if their local municipalities have their own by-laws regulating the use and abstraction of underground water as non-compliance therewith may carry similar penalties.

Reference List:

  • National Water Act 36 of 1998
  • City of Cape Town Water By-law (2010)
  • City of Cape Town Water Amendment By-law (2018)
  • http://www.capetown.gov.za/Family%20and%20home/Residential-utility-services/Residential-water-and-sanitation-services/Residential-water-restrictions-explained

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)

Why is my property transfer taking so long?

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After signing a deed of sale, the purchasers often want to move into the property as soon as possible.  When they are informed of the process involved prior to the property being transferred this may damper their excitement. There may also be delays in the transaction. In order to avoid unnecessary frustration, it is vital that parties to the transaction understand the processes involved and that delays are sometimes inevitable.

The deed of sale will normally be the starting point in a transaction for a conveyancer who has been instructed to attend to the transfer. This conveyancer is also known as the transferring attorney and is normally the main link between the other attorneys involved the transfer transaction.

Postponements, delays and interruptions

  1. A major role of the conveyancer is informing any mortgagees, for example banks, about the transfer so that any notice periods for the cancellation of bonds can start running. The notice period is usually up to 90 days. The transfer may be delayed as a result of this notice period.
  1. Obtaining the various certificates, receipts and consents applicable to the transaction in question also takes time. Examples of these is the rate clearance certificate, transfer duty receipt, homeowners’ association’s consent to the transfer, levy clearance certificate, electrical compliance certificate and plumbing certificate. The time it takes to obtain these certificates will differ from case to case. After an inspection by a plumber or electrician, for example, it may be found that certain work needs to be carried out before the certificates will be issued.
  1. Once all the documents are lodged at the Deeds Office by the conveyancer, an internal process is followed, which has different time frames in the various Deeds Offices. This time frame can also vary in a particular Deeds Office. It is best to enquire from your conveyancer what the Deeds Office time frame is at any given stage.

There are many ways in which the transfer process could be delayed, these are just some of the examples. If you feel that the process is taking too long, then you should contact your conveyancer.

Reference:

  • Aktebesorging, UNISA 2004, Department Private Law, Ramwell, Brink & West

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)

Legally owning a firearm in South Africa

B2Many people in South Africa own a firearm or intend to own one in the future. However, the right to possess a firearm is not guaranteed by law, and such a right is granted under limited circumstances under provisions of the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000. 

When is owning a firearm illegal? 

Under the Firearms Control Act (Act No. 60 of 2000), a person can be guilty of a firearm offence when they: 

  • Do not hold the necessary permits or licences for firearms in possession. 
  • Point a firearm, antique firearm or airgun, whether or not it is loaded or capable of being discharged, without good reason to do so. 
  • Neglect to lock away the firearm in a prescribed safe, and/or loses the firearm due to failing to take necessary steps in ensuring the firearm’s safekeeping. 
  • Fail to report the firearm as lost, stolen or destroyed, 24 hours after having become aware of the loss, theft or destruction of the firearm. 
  • Amend information on the competence certificate, permit or licence. 
  • Sell, give or supply a firearm or ammunition to a person who is not allowed to possess a firearm or ammunition. 

Firearms that are not prohibited under the act include:  

  • Automatic firearms (firearms that fire continuously while the trigger is pulled down, until the rounds of ammunition have run out); 
  • Any firearm that has been altered to enable more than one shot being discharged with a single depression of the trigger; or  
  • The firearm’s serial number has been changed or removed without the Registrar’s permission. 

Registering a firearm 

To register a firearm, a natural or juridical person may make an application to the Registrar of Firearms, and the natural person must possess a competency certificate issued after the successful completion of training by the Safety and Security Training Authority.  

References 

  • Dolley, C. (2017). Gunmen involved in over 1 000 murders the focus of SA’s ‘biggest ever’ firearms investigation. [online] News24. Available at: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/gunmen-involved-in-over-1-000-murders-the-focus-of-sas-biggest-ever-firearms-investigation-20170731 [Accessed 31 Jul. 2017]. 
  • Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000. (2017). [ebook] Cape Town. Available at: http://saflii.org/za/legis/num_act/fca2000192.pdf [Accessed 31 Jul. 2017]. 
  • Loc.gov. (2017). Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: South Africa | Law Library of Congress. [online] Available at: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/firearms-control/southafrica.php [Accessed 31 Jul.

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)

Fearing Foreclosure: What are your rights as the homeowner?

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The recent junk status announcement has shaken us into a quick action of tightening our belts and letting go of luxuries to afford our day to day expenses. This financial condition inhibits the possibility of purchasing a new house, let alone affording your current home.  Have you thought about what you would do if your foreclosure wiped its shoes on your doormat? 

  • You have the option to sell  

Selling, rather than waiting for foreclosure, offers a greater possibility of you receiving greater value for your home. You may choose to sell privately or through an estate agent. It is advisable that your qualified conveyancing attorney be notified of any concerns, as well as any interests of potential buyers. During this time, look for alternative home solutions, and consider a suitable transfer date.  

Prior to the signing of the agreement of sale and the transfer of ownership, the property still belongs to you. 

  • You have time 

Before receiving a foreclosure notice, the bank allows a grace period for you to catch up on your bond instalments. It may be difficult to do so, considering your finances have already been tightrope walking over the past few months. Meeting with your bank allows the opportunity for a payment restructure to be discussed and agreed upon.  

The repossession procedure is paused during the time you are in application of or in debt review. The National Credit Act allows this opportunity. 

  • Approach your lawyer 

If, after attempting to recover payments, you receive foreclosure summons, contact your lawyer. As stated by section 26(3) of the South African Constitution, your eviction may not be finalised without an official court order. The courts consider all relevant circumstances before reaching a final eviction decision.  

You may not be arbitrarily removed from your home.  

  • You won’t be homeless 

You have the right to adequate housing, despite your previous or current economic standing. Adequacy is determined by a place to eat, shelter, a place to sleep, and a place to raise a family, and this accessibility is the responsibility of the state. Following the outcome of the sale by the bank, the home is no longer in your ownership, and the state classifies you as an unlawful occupier.  

The eviction process will then follow that of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act. 

References: 

  • National Credit Act 
  • Constitution of the Republic of South Africa [1996] 
  • Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act [No. 19 of 1996]

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)

How do I cancel a lease?

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What happens when a landlord or a tenant wants to cancel a lease? What rules and what legislation apply? What protection does the law provide?

If you want to end your lease early, this can be done in situations where:

  • the Consumer Protection Act or Rental Housing Act applies, or
  • there’s a clause in the contract that allows for early cancellation, or
  • if both parties agree to it.

If, on the other hand, one of the parties wants to cancel because the other is in breach of the contract, then certain notice periods come into effect – the first of which being, of course, that the aggrieved party is required to give written notice for the breach to be remedied.

For tenants

  • If your landlord is in material breach of the lease, then cancelling your lease early will not be in breach of the contract.
  • If your landlord has met all the conditions of the lease and you decide to cancel your lease early, you will be in breach of contract unless the termination of the lease has been mutually agreed upon. Speak to your landlord before making any rushed decisions, chances are, you may be able to come to a mutual agreement whereby you are able to find a replacement tenant or sublet the property for the remainder of your lease.

For landlords

  • Firstly, look to the provisions of the lease itself. Most leases contain a breach clause, which indicate a period of a number of days that are necessary to be given as notice to the tenant of a breach. If there is no breach period specified, it will be a ‘reasonable period’ in terms of the common law.
  • If you give notice of the breach, and it is not remedied in the breach notice period, this means that you can take action to sue for whatever is owed or even issue summons and attach the tenant’s goods by evoking your landlord’s hypothec, but you cannot cancel the lease and evict.

When it comes to cancelling agreements, it is always best to consult a legal expert since doing something from your own understanding and experience could lead to a court case.

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)

Sectional titles: What is the role of the body corporate?

B1When it comes to sectional title schemes, there is still widespread misunderstanding of even the basics, starting with the body corporate and how it is established, as well as what its functions and powers are. This misunderstanding often gives rise to many problems and disputes in sectional title schemes which could quite easily have been avoided.

What is a sectional title?

A Sectional Title Development Scheme, usually referred to as a “scheme”, provides for separate ownership of a property, by individuals. These schemes fall under the control of the Sectional Titles Act, which came into effect on 1 June 1988.

When you buy a property that’s part of a scheme, you own the inside of the property i.e. the space contained by the inner walls, ceilings & floors of the unit. You are entitled to paint or decorate or undertake alterations as desired, providing such alterations do not infringe on municipal by-laws.

What is the body corporate?

The Body Corporate is the collective name given to all the owners of units in a scheme. Units usually refers to the townhouses or flats in a development. The body corporate comes into existence as soon as the developer of the scheme transfers a unit to a new owner. This means that all registered owners of units in a scheme are members of the Body Corporate.

  1. The Body Corporate controls and runs the Scheme.
  2. Day-to-day administration of the Scheme is vested in trustees who are appointed by the Body Corporate.
  3. Major decisions regarding the Scheme are made by the Body Corporate, usually at the annual general meeting (AGM), or at a special general meeting (SGM). At these meetings, matters, which affect the Scheme, are discussed, budgets are approved, rules can be changed and trustees are appointed. Each member of a Body Corporate is entitled to vote at these meetings, providing that the member is not in arrears with levy payments or in serious breach of the rules.

The Body Corporate exists to manage and administer the land and buildings in the scheme. This means, that the Body Corporate is required to enforce the legislation and rules in the Sectional Titles Act, the Management Rules and the Conduct Rules of the scheme. Amongst their other duties, the Trustees manage the Body Corporate’s funds, enforce the rules and resolve conflict to the best of their ability.

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)

How to evict an illegal tenant

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Landlords who have tenants that they believe are occupying their premises illegally may not forcefully remove such tenants. The Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (No. 19 of 1998) provides for the prohibition of unlawful eviction and also provides proper procedures for the eviction of unlawful occupiers.

According to the Act:

  • no one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property;
  • 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 that it should be recognised that the needs of those groups should be considered;

Procedure regarding evictions in terms of the PIE Act:

  1. According to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), to cancel a fixed-term lease you must give the tenant at least 20 business days’ notice to rectify a material breach of the lease, failing which the lease will be cancelled.
  2. After 21 days, you can send the tenant a letter to cancel the lease. The letter should state that the tenant is now deemed to be occupying the property unlawfully and that he or she must vacate the premises by a specific date.
  3. If the tenant/occupier has not left the premises by the date mentioned in the letter of cancellation, then your lawyer can lodge an eviction application, which includes seeking the court’s permission to serve a notice of motion on the occupier.

References:

  • Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (No. 19 of 1998), South Africa
  • “How to evict a tenant (lawfully)”, Mark Bechard, Personal Finance, IOL. https://www.iol.co.za/personal-finance/how-to-evict-a-tenant-lawfully-2059984

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)

Removing an unpaying tenant

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If your tenant has failed to pay his or her rent, it can be tempting to simply kick them out yourself and change the locks. However, do so would be considered illegal, even if the tenant has become an illegal occupant. The reason is because of the PIE Act.

In sum, the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) (1998) provides procedures for eviction of unlawful occupants and prohibits unlawful evictions. The main aim of the Act is to protect both occupiers and landowners. The owner or landlord must follow the provisions of the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (PIE) (except in areas where ESTA operates) if they want to evict a tenant.

Who is covered?

Anyone who is an unlawful occupier, which includes tenants who fail to pay their rentals and bonds, is covered by PIE. It excludes anyone who qualifies as an ‘occupier’ in terms of the Extension of Security of Tenure Act

When is an eviction lawful?

  1. For an eviction to happen lawfully, certain procedures must be followed. If any one of them is left out, the eviction is unlawful. So, if an owner wants to have an unlawful occupier evicted, they must do the following:
  2. give the occupier notice of his/her intention of going to court to get an eviction order.
  3. apply to the court to have a written notice served on the occupier stating the owner’s intention to evict the occupier.
  4. The court must serve the notice at least 14 days before the court hearing. The notice must also be served on the municipality that has jurisdiction in the area.

After a landlord intrusts their attorney to commence eviction proceedings, the following happens:

  1. Typically, (except in a case of urgency, e.g. if the tenant is maliciously damaging the leased premises because he got notice to vacate) the attorney will call on the tenant to remedy the breach (usually failure to pay rent on time);
  2. If the tenant fails to deal with the demand, the tenant will be considered to be in illegal occupation of the property;
  3. The attorney then applies to court for permission to begin the eviction process. The court gives a directive as to how and on whom notice of eviction should be served;
  4. The attorney doesn’t give the tenant notice at this time;
  5. The application to court sets out the reasons for the application and the personal circumstances of the occupants;
  6. If the courts are satisfied that it is fair to evict the tenant and all persons occupying the property with him, it gives a directive as to how the application for eviction must be served;
  7. The sheriff then serves the notice of intention to evict on the tenant and the Local Municipality;
  8. The occupants have an opportunity to oppose the application, and explain why they should not be evicted;
  9. If there is opposition, the matter gets argued before a magistrate or judge, who decides whether an eviction order can be granted, and if so, by when the occupants should vacate the property within a stipulated time;
  10. If the tenant does not oppose, the court will grant the eviction order;
  11. If the tenant fails to move, the attorney will apply to Court for a warrant of ejectment to be issued by the Court. This process can take a further three to four weeks.

Reference:

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).

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).