November 9, 2020
Being one step ahead………
The uncharted territories are rapidly transforming the nature of work and how existing organizations in both the private and public sector adapt to global change. Personally, there is a loud call to be more than what was ever thought possible!
Turbulence is a given; turmoil does not have to be! So, what are the meta-skills that will allow us to weather the storms and adopt an innovative mindset? I want to highlight the following four:
- We must be fluent in processing information! Rapid absorption of information is the beginning of overcoming difficulties. Generally, the faster and more easily we’re able to process information, the faster and more efficiently we can act and adapt.
- Congruent attitudes, a must! Whenever our behaviour contradicts our attitude, we feel a state of discomfort. We resolve the inconsistency between our attitude and behaviour by adopting a new attitude – an attitude that is consistent with our behaviour.
- Connect with people! Research shows that we’re influenced by people who we view as similar, so we’re more likely to act if we believe that many people are doing it too.
- Be generous! Generosity is the ultimate sign of forward-thinking! Give freely, of your knowledge, of your time and your heart; this will enlarge your capacity to thrive!
At KVV we do not opt for the easy way out, we know that it will require a collective effort to keep the competitive advantage.
Diaan Van Wyk | Director
November 9, 2020
“Death knocks at all doors alike” (John Dunton 1692)
Sooner or later we must leave our families to face life without us, and of course these are particularly dangerous times for us all.
Make sure that your own affairs are in order now –
- A valid will is the only sure way to protect your loved ones after you are gone.
- If you have an old will, check whether it needs updating or changing.
- Leave a file with all the important information and documents that your estate’s executor will need.
Five mistakes which can invalidate your will
The last thing you want is to leave your loved ones grappling not only with the tragedy and grief of your passing, but also with a bitter feud over the validity of your will. Avoid these mistakes in particular –
- Not complying with all the required formalities when making your will: Although our courts do have a discretion to order the Master of the High Court to accept as valid any document not complying strictly with the various required formalities (the court must be satisfied that the document “was intended to be [your] will or an amendment of [your] will” you will want to spare your loved ones all the delay, cost and risk of dispute involved in a court application.
- Not complying with formalities when changing your will: The same applies if you want to change or revoke your will. In addition, a court can declare your will to be fully or partially revoked if you did anything (such as leaving something written on your will, an action on your part, or another document) that satisfies the court of your intention to revoke the will. Again a scenario to avoid at all costs with a properly-drawn replacement will or codicil.
- Leaving any doubt as to your “testamentary capacity”: Anyone aged sixteen years or more may make a will “unless at the time of making the will he is mentally incapable of appreciating the nature and effect of his act”. Although it is up to anyone challenging your capacity to prove that you were mentally incapable at the time, there are grey areas here and our law reports are full of bitterly-fought disputes over the question of testamentary capacity. So if there is any chance at all of that sort of challenge arising ask your lawyer to advise on the best way to leave proof of your capacity at the time of signing.
- Leaving any doubt as to fraud or forgery: All too often our courts have had to decide disputes over whether the signature on a will is genuine or forged, or over allegations of fraud. Again if there is any risk of that happening, get legal advice on how to put the genuineness of your signature, and of the correctness of your will, beyond doubt.
- Leaving any doubt as to coercion or “undue influence”: As with the previous two warnings, this isn’t likely to be a danger for most people, but on the “better safe than sorry” principle don’t risk any chance of someone challenging your will with accusations that you were subjected to some form of duress (threats perhaps, anything that would cause you to act unwillingly or against your better judgment) or undue influence.
If you don’t have an updated will in place contact your attorney now – one of the commonest (and most tragic) mistakes people make is thinking “I’m too busy right now, it can wait”. It can’t!
November 9, 2020
“By subscribing to the constitution, each member accepts the benefits stipulated in his or her favour by the other subscribing members. One of those benefits is that there shall be rules of conduct to give substance to the objectives and rights promised and conferred by the constitution … and that the other members will be required to comply with them … and that any breaches thereof will be called to account” (Extract from judgment below)
There are many advantages to living in residential estates and sectional title developments, but there are also rules and responsibilities.
A common source of friction in complexes is parking, leading to complaints such as “there’s never any parking for my visitors because owners hog the visitor bays for their own cars” and “our complex roads are a nightmare of parked cars jutting out of driveways”.
In yet another reminder to community scheme buyers and owners to fully understand and comply with all the rules and regulations you are agreeing to, the High Court recently barred a home owner from parking his vehicles anywhere except in his own garage and driveway.
- The owner in question lives in a residential estate governed by a Homeowners Association (HOA), one of whose rules forbids the parking of owners’ vehicles either in visitors’ bays or in the street.
- Able to park only one of his three vehicles in his own double garage (because of household equipment stored there), an owner persistently parked his second vehicle outside his garage (its size meant that it jutted into the street), and his third vehicle in a visitor’s bay.
- Other owners complained and the HOA asked the High Court for an interdict against the owner in question.
Two of the owner’s contentions in fighting the application are no doubt commonly raised by rule-breakers generally –
- “The HOA has waived compliance with its rules by not enforcing them”
The owner claimed that failures to strictly enforce the rules against other offenders amounted to the HOA waiving compliance with them. Not so, held the Court, the HOA’s duty was to enforce the rules for everyone’s benefit, plus it had no power to waive compliance. HOAs must however both check the exact wording of their constitutions and recognise the need to conscientiously enforce compliance with rules – both factors mentioned by the Court in reaching its decision.
- “The HOA is applying the rules in a discriminatory manner and shouldn’t be allowed to”
The owner’s argument here was that the HOA was discriminating against him and could not be permitted to do so. This being a contractual right, held the Court, any failure to enforce it against other owners would have no legal bearing on its right to enforce it against this owner. The Court did however warn that “An irrationally discriminatory system of enforcement might well in a given case justify a decision by the court in a matter like this to refuse to grant the interdictory relief in the exercise of its equitable discretion.” In other words, HOAs should be careful to avoid any form of “irrational” discrimination in enforcing rules.
The result – the owner is “prohibited from parking his vehicles, motor bikes, caravans, boats or trailers anywhere … other than in his garages or outside his house wholly within the boundary of his property.” He must also pay the HOA’s legal costs.
An end note on the CSOS dispute resolution service
The CSOS (Community Schemes Ombud Service) provides a dispute resolution service and can adjudicate a wide range of disputes in community schemes. In this particular case it had no jurisdiction to grant an order against the owner, but it should always be your first port of call if possible – take specific advice.
November 9, 2020
“Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages” (Terry Pratchett)
The flood of lockdown lay-offs and salary reductions has left many tenants struggling to find rent money, and their landlords wondering how to cover their bond repayments and other expenses.
Whether you are a landlord or a tenant (note that we are talking here only about residential leases) you need to be aware of the new Alert Level 1 Regulations applicable to evictions “for the duration of the national state of disaster”.
In a nutshell (this is of necessity only a brief summary of some highlights from the full regulations so take professional advice specific to your circumstances) –
- Evictions can take place but only with a court order.
- Courts have the power to suspend eviction orders until after the “lapse or termination of the national state of disaster”. Expect courts generally to lean towards suspending eviction orders; in other words landlords will in all probability have their work cut out for them.
- Landlords will in practice have to convince the court that it would be “not just or equitable” to suspend the order, taking into account a whole range of listed factors such as health considerations (public health as well as that of the parties), the tenant’s ability to immediately access another residence and basic services, the impact of the disaster on both parties (with the court balancing the prejudice to each of them from delaying eviction) and whether the landlord “has taken reasonable steps in good faith, to make alternative arrangements with all affected persons, including but not limited to payment arrangements that would preclude the need for any relocation during the national state of disaster”.
- The Rental Housing Tribunal has new powers to urgently restore occupation and/or services to tenants deprived of either by the landlord. This would be by way of an “ex parte spoliation order”, i.e. without the landlord having any right to be heard, although the landlord can ask for an urgent hearing on 24 hours’ notice.
- “Unfair practice” is presumed where –
- Services are terminated without reasonable notice, alternative payment arrangements have unreasonably not been made, or where “no provision has been made for the ongoing provision of basic services during the national state of disaster”’
- Any penalty for late payment of rental (where the default is caused by the disaster) has been levied (only interest can be charged),
- Either the landlord or the tenant have failed “to engage reasonably and in good faith to make arrangements to cater for the exigencies of the disaster”,
- “Any other conduct prejudicing the ongoing occupancy of a place of residence, prejudicing the health of any person or prejudicing the ability of any person to comply with the applicable restrictions on movement that is unreasonable or oppressive having regard to the prevailing circumstances.”
Notes for landlords and tenants
Keep a full record of everything in case your dispute ends up before the courts or the tribunal.
Both landlords and tenants will have to act fairly and reasonably towards each other here, taking into account your respective abilities to comply with the terms of the lease during the state of disaster.
Where tenants are struggling to pay rent as a result of the lockdown, landlords should be open (to whatever extent possible) to any reasonable request for rental deferments or reductions. Tenants in turn should be fair and reasonable in asking for relief. Good faith negotiation is key if landlords can expect to have any chance of obtaining an immediately-enforceable eviction order.
November 9, 2020
“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail” (Benjamin Franklin)
The media is still awash with warnings about the dangers of not complying with POPIA (the Protection of Personal Information Act). The risks of non-compliance are indeed substantial but whilst much is made of the fact that the Act itself is now in force, references to the one-year grace period for compliance expiring on 30 June 2021 appear only in the fine print (if at all).
But – and this is a big but – there are major benefits to understanding POPIA and starting the compliance process long before it becomes compulsory. The penalties for getting it wrong are sizeable, “preparation makes perfect”, you are giving yourself lots of time to get it right, and for many businesses there is also good marketing potential in being able to tell your customers and clients that you are already addressing the situation.
Four practical steps to start with…
Before we start on your action plan, get to grips with the fact that you will almost certainly have to comply fully with POPIA. As soon as you in any way “process” (collect, use, manage, store, share, destroy and the like) any personal information relating to a “data subject” (customers, members, employees etc etc), you are a “responsible party”. Very few businesses will fall outside that net. Equally you are unlikely to fall under exemptions like that applying to information processed “in the course of a purely personal or household activity”. Get going with these steps –
- Assess what personal information you hold, how you hold it, and why: Figure out what personal information you currently hold, how you hold it, and why you hold it. To collect and “process” such information lawfully you need to be able to show that you are acting lawfully, reasonably in a manner that doesn’t infringe the data subject’s privacy, and safely.You must show that “given the purpose for which it is processed, it is adequate, relevant and not excessive”, data can only be collected for a specific purpose related to your business activities, and can only be retained so long as you legitimately need to or are allowed to keep it.
There’s a lot more detail in POPIA, but you get the picture – you cannot collect or hold personal information without good and lawful cause.
- Check security measures, know what to do about breaches: You must “secure the integrity and confidentiality of personal information in [your] possession or under [your] control by taking appropriate, reasonable technical and organisational measures to prevent … loss of, damage to or unauthorised destruction of personal information … and unlawful access to or processing of personal information.” You are going to have big problems if there is any form of breach from a risk that is “reasonably foreseeable” unless you can prove that you took steps to “establish and maintain appropriate safeguards” against those risks. Bear in mind that whilst cyber-attacks tend to get the most media time, there are also other risks out there – brainstorm with your team all possible vulnerabilities and patch them.
Any actual or suspected breaches (called “security compromises” in POPIA) must be reported “as soon as reasonably possible” to both the Information Regulator and the data subject/s involved.If third parties (”operators”) hold or process any personal information for you, they must act with your authority, treat the information as confidential, and have in place all the above security measures.
- Check if you do any direct marketing: Most businesses don’t think of themselves as doing any “direct marketing”, but the definition is wide and includes “any approach” to a data subject “for the direct or indirect purpose of … promoting or offering to supply, in the ordinary course of business, any goods or services to the data subject…”. So for example just emailing or WhatsApping your customers about a new product or a special offer will put you firmly into that net.If your approach is by means of “any form of electronic communication, including automatic calling machines, facsimile machines, SMSs or e-mail”, you must observe strict limits. Whilst you can as a general proposition market existing customers in respect of “similar products or services” (there are limits and recipients must be able to “opt-out” at any stage), potential new customers can only be marketed with their consent, i.e. on an “opt-in” basis.
- Get a start on procedures and training: Identify an “Information Officer” who will take on all compliance duties, establish procedures, and train your team in implementing them. Cover how you will collect the data, process it, store it, for how long, for what purpose/s and so on. What consent forms do you need and when/how are they to be completed and stored? You are much less likely to have a POPIA problem if everyone in your business (and most importantly you!) understands what your procedures are and implements them as a matter of course. Make sure that no functions “fall between two stools” – assign individual compliance tasks to named staff members and make sure everyone understands who is to do what.
This is a complex topic and there is no substitute for tailored professional advice. What is set out above is of necessity no more than a simplified summary of a few highlights.
November 9, 2020
The sharp upsurge in businesses operating remotely as a result of the pandemic lockdowns means a lot more people working from home – most presumably in low-profile home offices, but inevitably some in the form of full-on business activities from home. What effect is that having on the property market?
Work-from-home and what’s hot in property market trends
Let’s firstly have a look at what trends are emerging in the “hot property” market, driven by both the work-from-home phenomenon and by the general economic fallout from the pandemic and the lockdowns –
- Increased interest in coastal and country properties from employees and businesses looking to work remotely away from congested highways and crowded cities.
- Upsizing by stay-at-home workers looking for extra home office space and facilities.
- Downsizing by financially-stretched homeowners reducing costs and looking to realise the value in large houses they no longer need (either by selling or by renting out).
- Increased demand for rental properties in some sectors, driven presumably by owners selling homes to cut costs, perhaps also by sales in anticipation of emigration or semi-gration.
The next question of course, regardless of whether you are selling, buying or staying put, is this – what does the law have to say about home businesses? As a small business are you clear to move your business into your house? As an employee is there anything in the law to stop you from setting up a home office? As a neighbour do you have any right to object?
Those are of course important questions to ask before you buy a “home-office-house” and before you open up a home business in your existing house. The last thing you want is to be shut down by unhappy neighbours or the local municipality.
The two questions to ask
The High Court has confirmed that there are essentially two questions to ask –
- Is the activity in question allowed by local zoning and land use laws?
- Is there any other legal block in place, for example are there any title deed restrictions or, if the residence is part of a community scheme like a Home Owners Association (HOA) or a Sectional Title complex, do the complex’s rules allow it?
Living in a complex – the hair salon allowed by zoning laws but closed down by the HOA
- A homeowner had for many years run a hair salon business from her home in a complex, although both the HOA’s constitution and its conduct rules allowed only residential usage of houses except with authorisation via a special resolution. She was bound by the constitution and rules both by the terms of her purchase agreement and by her title deeds.
- When she refused to cease business the HOA approached the High Court for an interdict. Her central argument was that her home business was permitted by the local zoning regulations in terms of which certain small scale non-residential activities were allowed in the area.
- Not relevant, held the Court in interdicting the homeowner from continuing her business. She had agreed to a limitation of her rights, she had agreed to forfeit her right to use their land for anything but residential purposes and the HOA had not purported to change the zoning scheme and was “well within its rights to seek to preserve the residential character of the development”.
In other words, HOA and Body Corporate rules can in principle be more restrictive than local zoning laws and effectively override them in such a case. Bear in mind that each case will be decided on its facts, and in addition there has been some speculation recently that the National State of Disaster regulations and orders could be used to justify a departure from that principle. Much safer however to assume that you are bound by your complex’s rules (which may in any event allow you to work from home and/or to run a small business, although perhaps only with consent).
Must you apply for rezoning or municipal consent? 3 categories to consider
If you don’t live in a residential complex or if you do but are in compliance with the complex’s rules, you need to check that you aren’t going to be stopped from operating (perhaps even fined) by your local authority.
Your local municipality will have its own land use and zoning regulations and bye-laws, but generally speaking your business activities will fall into one of three categories –
- Micro business: Depending on the zoning of your particular area, working alone from home in a home office is highly unlikely to cause any issues either legally or practically, and you are also likely to be allowed to conduct small scale business activities from home without consent where your business activities fall into your municipality’s “micro-business” or “home enterprise/undertaking” category (check with your local municipality on its rules in this regard).
- Municipal consent: As soon however as your activities go further (there are normally limits on things like the nature of the business, number of staff, percentage area of the house used for the business, parking availability, noise/nuisance factors and the like) you will probably have to apply for municipal consent or a permit to operate.
- Rezoning: In other cases you may need to go further and apply for complete rezoning of the property, possibly also for removal of title deed restrictions.
Take specific advice in any doubt!