July 2, 2021

KVV | A Note from our Director

Dear Client

Are you wearing enough PPE to protect your income?

All over the world, the fear, worry, sadness and loss, that are spread with the virus are unprecedented.

Together we are fiercely trying to combat the virus, by following the COVID-19 protocols, whether we are at home or work, whether we are buying groceries or picking up our children from school.

For the COVID protocols to achieve their purpose, each one of us needs to take up the responsibility of abiding by the safety rules personally, regardless of what lockdown level we are in.

But not only is our health at risk, so is our businesses, our income, our salaries, our bread and butter on the table. Just as important as our lives and health are, so is our healthcare system and keeping a roof over our heads. And someone needs to pay for that… and that someone is the salary earner.

This begs the question what PPE are we wearing to protect our income?

Yes, we do not have control over the job losses and businesses closing on a global scale, but don’t let the fear of the uncontrollable make you underestimate your worth in contributing to the economy, by “earning your salary”.

Food needs to be packed to reach our tables, Insurance companies needs profitable companies to invest with to pay out, income tax needs to be generated to fund hospitals. Every individual contributes on a larger scale, more than you and I realise.

As you sit behind your desk at work, or in isolation at home behind your desktop, with your kids playing around your feet – take hold of your commitment and responsibility to keep whatever business you are in going.

Protect your company`s productivity by not letting your emotional state get the better of you. For the sake of our economy, stay strong and focus on how you influence those around you. That is a difference that only you, have the power to make.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear”.

In time we will look back on what we’ve overcame and be grateful for the effort we’ve made to keep as much standing as possible, even when the world caves down around us. You are making a contribution. Focus on how you influence those around you. Be a difference maker!

Click here to view

Kind Regards

Diaan Van Wyk  |  Director

July 2, 2021

Bodies Corporate: Before You Sequestrate to Recover Arrears…

“Bankruptcy – a fate worse than debt” (Anon)
One of a Body Corporate’s fundamental duties is to collect monthly levies from the scheme’s members, and to take robust action to recover any arrears. As with any other creditor/debtor relationship however, trying to recover debt can be an exercise in frustration and delay, and the more recalcitrant the debtor, the greater the temptation to “go straight for the jugular” by applying to sequestrate the debtor’s estate. You will have to show that the sequestration is to the advantage of creditors as a whole – not just to you – but that isn’t the only consideration. You will be throwing good money after bad if you end up having to pay a “contribution to the costs of sequestration”. The recent case of a sectional title Body Corporate, which perhaps thought that it was protected from this particular danger because of its statutory preferences for recovery of arrear levies prior to transfer, illustrates the danger. But before we get to the facts and the outcome of that case let’s have a quick look at the general principles involved.
What is a “contribution to costs” and who has to pay it?
If you want to share in the net proceeds of an insolvent estate, you must formally prove your claim at a meeting of creditors convened by the trustee of the insolvent estate. If you don’t do that, you wave goodbye to any possible dividend and will be writing off the debt. On the other hand, if you decide to prove your claim you may be at risk of having to pay into the estate as well as writing off the debt – talk about adding insult to injury! That danger arises if the costs of sequestrating the estate exceed the funds in the estate available to pay them. In that event the trustee of the insolvent estate will recover a “contribution to costs” from proved creditors – including you if your claim was proved as above.
The special danger of being the “petitioning creditor”
The creditor who applies for the debtor’s sequestration is – as “the petitioning creditor” – liable to contribute to the shortfall even without proving a claim. In other words, unlike other creditors, you cannot protect yourself from contributing to costs by holding back the claim – you are “deemed” to have proved it. That’s why, although applying for sequestration can be an excellent way of recovering debt from a recalcitrant debtor, it is essential to first consider the danger of contribution.
How “secured creditors” can protect themselves
Also relevant to our story is that a creditor holding security (such as a bond over the insolvent’s property) must prove its secured claim in order to be paid out the net proceeds of its security. A secured creditor can, if it suffers a shortfall after being paid out those net proceeds of its security, also share in the “free residue” of the estate. The “free residue” is the net proceeds of all unencumbered assets available for distribution to creditors. The secured creditor’s share in this event will be based on the “concurrent” portion of its claim, in other words it is now a concurrent creditor. This is where the danger comes in because any contribution payable is payable in the free residue by concurrent creditors. A secured creditor can largely protect itself from this danger by “relying on the proceeds of its security” to satisfy its claim. By doing so it waives its concurrent claim for the shortfall, but equally it no longer has to contribute along with the other proved (or petitioning) concurrent creditors. It will now only have to contribute when there are no other such creditors, or when other contributors are unable to pay their share.
The case of the Body Corporate that sequestrated to recover arrears – and paid the price
Let’s see how those principles were applied in a recent Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) case –
  • The owner of two sectional title units, bonded to separate banks, was unable to pay his levies. The Body Corporate sequestrated his estate, and his two units were sold. Only the two banks proved claims.
  • This was where the Body Corporate’s statutory protection for arrear levies came in. No transfer can be registered in the Deeds Office until all rates and taxes (and levies in the case of Bodies Corporate and Homeowners Associations) have been paid in full. Thus the arrear levies were paid in full to the Body Corporate by the transferring attorneys. “Done and dusted” thought the Body Corporate, but it was not to be.
  • There was a shortfall in the insolvent estate, and the trustee tried to recover the resultant contribution from the two banks (the bondholders) who had proved their claims in the estate.
  • The banks objected, arguing that because they had relied on their security in proving their claims, they were not liable to contribute (as above). The Body Corporate, they argued, was as the petitioning creditor liable for the contribution despite not having proved its claim.
  • The Body Corporate on the other hand argued that it could never be liable for a contribution. Although it was indeed the petitioning creditor, it had never proved a claim against the estate and the arrear levies had been paid to it in full, as required by law, before transfer of the properties.
  • To cut a long story short, the dispute wound its way through our courts and ended up in the SCA, which, after a detailed examination of the relevant law, held the Body Corporate as petitioning creditor to be solely liable for the full amount of the contribution to costs (R46 663.16).
Bodies Corporate beware!
The Court’s reasoning in reaching this conclusion will be of great interest to the lawyers amongst us, but the bottom line for Bodies Corporate is this – if you sequestrate to recover arrears, you could well end up carrying the full brunt of any contribution to costs. So perhaps take advice on whether you can/should rather use other debt collection processes, including perhaps applying to the CSOS (Community Schemes Ombud Service) to order and enforce payment of the arrears. Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as 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 professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© LawDotNews

July 2, 2021

Buying Property from a Company – Should You Buy the Shares or the House?

“There is never a wrong time to buy the right home” (Anon)
You find the house of your dreams, agree on the price and get ready to put pen to paper. The house is in the name of a company, and you are offered a choice – either buy the house out of the company or take over the company (which owns the house and nothing else) by buying the shares and thus avoid the delay and cost of a normal property transfer and registration in the Deeds Office. What should you do?There are a host of both practical and legal factors to consider before deciding. Holding property in a company can come with significant advantages, but there can also be major disadvantages, so professional advice specific to your own circumstances is a no-brainer here. Some of the many factors you should consider are –
  • Tax and estate planning considerations. These are complex and no two cases will be identical, but consider the higher capital gains tax rates payable by companies (and the annual exclusion and “primary residence exclusion” of R2m for individuals), the differential income tax rates, possible VAT considerations, your own estate planning circumstances (including the estate duty angle) and the like.
  • Asset protection. Particularly if you run your own business or are in a profession at significant risk of litigation, it may be important to you to protect your major assets (like your house) from possible attack by creditors. Any assets held in your own name will be a natural target if you run into financial problems, whilst those held in another entity like a company or trust will generally be much harder to attack. Complicated multi-level structures such as having a trust owning your company’s shares have generally fallen out of favour for a variety of reasons, but you may still be advised to consider one in your particular situation.
  • Joint ownership. Joint ownership of property comes with its own set of risks and issues, and depending on your needs you might be advised to address them with a company/shareholder structure.
  • Costs and simplicity. Running a company comes with extra costs (accounting/auditing, statutory costs etc), formalities and responsibilities, getting a bond in your own name is likely to be a simpler process than taking it in a company, and so on.
  • The hidden risks. When you buy a company’s shares you get the company as it is, with all its assets and liabilities. If the seller is in any way unreliable, you could find yourself losing the house to an undisclosed company liability that suddenly crawls out of the woodwork. Suretyships are a particular danger here – there is no central register of suretyships you can refer to, and it is common for groups of companies and other entities in particular to sign cross-suretyships without necessarily keeping a record of them all. These are risks that can be largely managed with proper advice and due diligence, but a residual whiff of doubt is inevitable.
  • Other factors. There will be many other aspects to consider, depending on your circumstances and needs, and on the company in question.
Transfer duty – you pay it either way!
As a buyer you can never lose sight of all the costs you will incur in buying a house, and the “big one” is normally transfer duty. It’s essentially a government tax, payable by you as buyer (unless the property sale is subject to VAT), and it can be a lot of money. Do not however fall into the old (and surprisingly still-common) trap of thinking that by buying the company you avoid paying transfer duty. That was indeed a commonly used loophole in decades past and it is still sometimes referred to. But in reality that all changed many years ago, and (subject to what is said below) you should budget to pay transfer duty as set out in this table –
Source: SARS “Budget Tax Guide 2021 So for example if you buy a house for R3m you will pay R146k in transfer duty. Or R916k on a R10m house. Finding a way to avoid or reduce such a cost is an attractive proposition, and indeed until 2002 it was a common way for buyers and sellers to save transfer duty and to instead pay only ¼% “Securities Transfer Tax” – a huge saving. That loophole closed however many years ago – on 13 December 2002 to be precise – and since then the sale of shares in a “residential property company” (a company with over 50% of its asset value in residential property) attracts transfer duty on the “fair value” of the property. No savings there!
What about “buying” a property-owning trust?
Similarly, before 2002 a common transfer duty avoidance strategy was to hold property in a trust, then to “sell” the trust to a purchaser by substituting him/her as a beneficiary of that trust. That loophole was also closed in respect of beneficiaries holding “contingent interests” in the property – the situation here is a bit more complicated than it is with companies as there are various types of trust you could be dealing with, so specialist advice is essential. Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as 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 professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© LawDotNews

July 2, 2021

When Bond Clauses Sink Sales

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success” (Alexander Graham Bell)
You sell your house, give the signed sale agreement to your attorney, and wait to get paid out as soon as the property is transferred in the Deeds Office. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a bit as it turns out, but perhaps the most frequent “sinker of sales” is a failure by one party or the other to meet a “suspensive condition” (often also referred to as a “condition precedent”). As our courts have put it “a suspensive condition suspends the operation of all obligations flowing from a contract until occurrence of a future uncertain event. If the uncertain future event does not occur, the obligations never come into operation.” In other words, there is no binding sale at all until all suspensive conditions have been met.
The bond clause
A very common suspensive clause in property sale agreements, where the buyer cannot pay the purchase price in cash, is the “bond clause” making the sale subject to the buyer obtaining a “bond approval” from a financial institution (usually a bank). The bank loans the money to the buyer against the security of a mortgage bond over the property. The bond clause is of course an essential escape route for you if you are a buyer needing to raise a loan. As a seller on the other hand you want the clause tightly drawn to stop the buyer using it as an excuse to pull out of the deal if the dreaded “buyer’s remorse” should set in after the sale. For both parties it is essential to ensure that the clause is properly drawn to reflect clearly and correctly what you are both agreeing to. Preparation is key here! Our law reports are replete with bitter and expensive disputes over bond clauses, many of them avoidable had the parties proactively sought legal assistance before signing the sale agreement.
What should be in the bond clause?
In broad terms a bond clause will provide that the sale agreement is suspended until the bank approves the bond, and that the agreement will lapse if approval is not given by the date and in the amount specified in the clause. Beyond that, make sure that there are no grey areas around what the deadline is or around what exactly will constitute “bond approval”. What format must it be in? Is it enough that an approval is granted, or must it be communicated to the seller before deadline? Is the bank’s offer to the buyer subject to the National Credit Act and if so on what basis can the buyer reject the offer? Is it enough to specify that the bond approval should be on the bank’s “usual terms and conditions”?  What if the buyer rejects a reasonable offer from the bank in order to get out of the sale? And so on… As a seller, if you are concerned about your buyer not being able to raise the required finance, consider adding a “72-hour clause” to the sale (ask your attorney for advice on this). As a buyer, consider specifying the maximum interest rate at which you will accept the bank’s offer of a loan, or you could find yourself tied to unaffordable bond repayments. Each case will be different, and our courts will always look at the specific wording of each particular case. So make sure the clause is specifically tailored to protect both parties in your respective circumstances.
Amending or waiving the bond clause
What if the buyer can’t get an offer from a bank by due date or in the required amount or (if the buyer specified a maximum interest rate as suggested above) at the required interest rate? If that happens, the parties can agree to vary the agreement – perhaps to give the buyer more time to raise the bond, or to change the amount of the bond. Just remember that that must be done in a written, signed agreement before the due date. After the due date the whole agreement will have lapsed and there will be no contract left to amend. Alternatively as a buyer, you have the option to “waive” the bond condition. You can do so unilaterally (i.e., without the seller’s agreement), provided again that the agreement hasn’t already lapsed, and provided that nothing in the agreement prevents such a waiver. Importantly, you can only waive a suspensive condition where it is for your “exclusive benefit”. A bond clause will usually qualify in that it is normally there purely to protect you from being tied to an agreement you cannot afford – but perhaps avoid any possible doubt by specifying that in the clause. Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as 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 professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© LawDotNews

July 2, 2021

11 POPIA Questions to Ask Yourself Before 30 June 2021

Note: This is a complex topic and there is no substitute for tailored professional advice. What is set out below is of necessity no more than a simplified summary of some practical highlights.

You and your business are at substantial risk if you aren’t fully compliant with POPIA (the Protection of Personal Information Act) on 1 July 2021.

The clock is ticking! Have a look at the Information Regulator’s Countdown Clock here to see exactly how many days (and hours, minutes, and seconds!) you have left.

Be ready! Be compliant! Ask yourself these eleven questions –

  1. Does POPIA really apply to us? 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” (suppliers, customers, members, employees and so on – whether individuals or “juristic persons” such as corporates and the like), you are a “responsible party”.The formal definition of a responsible party is “a public or private body or any other person which, alone or in conjunction with others, determines the purpose of and means for processing personal information” – very few businesses and organisations will fall outside that net. Equally you are unlikely to fall under exemptions such as that applying to information processed “in the course of a purely personal or household activity”.But don’t panic –. compliance is easily attainable for most businesses, particularly if you are a smaller operation with little in the way of sensitive personal information. Answer the questions below to get a feel for areas you need to concentrate on now.
  2. What risks do we run if we don’t comply with POPIA? If a data subject suffers any loss as a result of your breach of POPIA, the subject (or the Regulator at the request of the subject) can sue you for damages and you will be liable even if your breach was unintentional and not negligent. You also face criminal prosecution, penalties and administrative fines for some breaches.
  3. Have we registered our Information Officer/s? You must register your Information Officer (“IO”) with the Information Regulator – go to the Regulator’s Online Portal for the online and PDF versions of the registration form, plus the email address for support enquiries and a link to the Search page. The IO is responsible (and liable) for all compliance duties, working with the Regulator, establishing procedures, and the like. You are automatically your business’ IO if you are its “Head” i.e., a sole trader, any partner in a partnership, or (in respect of a “juristic person” such as a company) the CEO, MD or “equivalent officer”. You can “duly authorise” another person in the business (management level or above) to act as IO and you can designate one or more employees (again management level or above) as “Deputy Information Officers”.
  4. Do we have a list of all personal information we hold, and how and why we hold it? Make a full list of all the personal information you hold/process, whether physically or in electronic form. Then evaluate it against the test that, to collect and “process” personal information lawfully, you need to be able to show that you are acting safely, lawfully, and reasonably in a manner that doesn’t infringe the data subject’s privacy.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 for that purpose.
  5. What security measures do we have in place? 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 at great risk of liability and penalties if you suffer any form of data 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. If you haven’t already done so, brainstorm with your team all possible internal and external vulnerabilities (physical as well as electronic) and address them.
  6. Do third parties hold/process personal information for us? 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. Further restrictions apply if the third party is outside South Africa.
  7. Do we know what to do if we suffer a breach? 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.
  8. Do we do any “direct marketing” and if so do we comply with all requirements? 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, emailing or WhatsApping your customers about a new product or a special offer will put you 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/clients 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. They can be approached only once for that consent so keep a record of everyone you have asked.
  9. Does our website use cookies and if so do we have a cookie notice and policy in place? As countries around the world ramp up their privacy laws, we will all see many more examples of “cookie notices” on websites we visit. You may wonder how your own website should be configured, and the short answer is that if it uses cookies (almost all do), POPIA very likely applies despite the fact that there is no specific mention of cookies in the current legislation. Bottom line – to be on the safe side, have a cookie notice and policy in place. Keep yours simple and user-friendly.
  10. Do we have a privacy policy and a POPIA manual in place? POPIA – unlike PAIA (the Promotion of Access to Information Act) – doesn’t require you to have a POPIA manual in place but in larger businesses it is certainly a good idea to prepare one.However you should certainly have a privacy policy in place. Make sure that everyone in your organisation is aware of it and of how critical it is to comply with it at all times.
  11. Is our staff team ready? Check that everyone in your business understands your compliance plan and their own individual roles and responsibilities in it. Make sure that nothing falls through the cracks – assign specific tasks to specific staff members.
Bodies Corporate and Homeowners Associations – how POPIA affects you

Bodies Corporate and Homeowners Associations (HOAs) fall into the POPIA compliance net and should be asking themselves the questions above.

In assessing what personal information you hold, how and why you hold it, and who you are sharing it with, remember to include not only scheme owners and HOA members but also your auditors, attorneys, managing agents, the CSOS (Community Schemes Ombud Service), security service providers and the like.

If you have gate security in the form of visitor registers, scanning of licence plates and driver’s licences and so on, be ready to address questions around having lawful reason for collection and retention of all the personal information you are gathering in this manner.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as 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 professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© LawDotNews

July 2, 2021

Can You Change Your Marital Regime After Marriage?

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it” (John Steinbeck)
One of the most important decisions you must make before you marry is what “marital regime” (“matrimonial property system”) you want to apply to your marriage. To recap, you have three choices –
  1. Marry in community of property: This is the default in South Africa if you don’t sign an antenuptial contract (“ANC”) before you marry. All your assets and liabilities (with a few specific exceptions) are pooled in one joint estate. It’s probably not the best choice for most couples – you don’t for example want to be lumbered with a poor credit record (and a bank rejecting your bond application for example) or even with a sequestration application because of a spouse’s debts. But as the old saying goes, “it depends…”
  2. Marry out of community of property with accrual: The most popular option with couples these days, under this regime you keep as your own separate property whatever you brought into the marriage, but in the event of divorce or death you share equally in any subsequent “accrual” (growth in asset value built up during the marriage). You must specify accrual in your ANC, otherwise “without accrual” (as below) will apply.
  3. Marry out of community of property without accrual: As the name suggests, under this regime you have your own separate estates, and there is no sharing of accrual. The best choice for some couples in some cases, but probably not for most.
“Oops, we made the wrong choice; what now?”
A surprising number of couples tie the knot without any thought for the legal consequences, and only later do they learn that because they had no ANC they are married in community of property with all that that entails. Or perhaps they did think it through but made the wrong choice at the time. For example, you could find yourself needing to improve your personal credit record, perhaps after applying to a bank for a mortgage bond and being rejected because of your spouse’s debts. The good news is that all is not lost – you can still change regimes with a “postnuptial contract”. The bad news is that we are talking an expensive application to court here, and there are various requirements which may frustrate your application.
A court order is essential
The Matrimonial Property Act specifically allows a married couple to “jointly apply to a court for leave to change the matrimonial property system, including the marital power, which applies to their marriage”. You will have to satisfy the court of three things, namely that
  1. there are sound reasons for the proposed change;
  2. sufficient notice of the proposed change has been given to all the creditors of the spouses; and
  3. no other person will be prejudiced by the proposed change.
The couple who didn’t get court authority
  • A couple had married out of community of property excluding accrual.
  • Thereafter, the wife drew up an agreement as “an ‘insurance policy’, to allay her fears of insecurity in the event of a divorce”. The husband agreed to set aside his marriage contract, specifying that his wife was entitled to half of his estate.
  • After some hesitation the husband signed this agreement, but critically it was never sanctioned by a court as required and was merely handed to friends for safekeeping.
  • During subsequent divorce proceedings, the wife was forced to abandon her main claim (that the agreement was valid and binding) precisely because of her failure to obtain a court order as set out above.
  • She also tried another tack, namely that the agreement was enforceable as an agreement “in anticipation of divorce”. This was rejected by the Supreme Court of Appeal on the facts, finding that the parties had had a “normal marital relationship” after the signing of the agreement, and that the wife had accordingly failed to prove that divorce “was in the parties” contemplation when the agreement was concluded”.
  • The Constitutional Court cemented her defeat in this regard by refusing its leave for her to appeal the SCA decision.
Ask your lawyer before you marry which marital regime is best for you. And if you didn’t do that, or if you change your mind later, you must ask a court to authorise your change of regime. Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as 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 professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© LawDotNews

July 2, 2021

Landlord Liable for a Tragic “Freak” Flood Drowning

“Nature has the ability to spring a surprise when least expected” (extract from the judgment below)

A recent High Court decision dealing with the tragic drowning of a toddler highlights once again the legal dangers faced by property owners who let out accommodation to the public.

This particular case related specifically to a Holiday Let on a guest farm and a natural disaster in the form of a flood, but of course any loss however caused could lead to your visitors/guests suing you.

And weather-related disasters – think storms, floods, wildfires and the like – will almost certainly increase in both frequency and intensity if climate change predictions hold true.

A “freak” flood and a tragic drowning
  • It should have been an idyllic holiday on a riverbank. A family booked a week’s vacation in one of three chalets built by a farmer on the banks of a river. The family was particularly attracted by the fact that this was the closest chalet to the river, with a wooden balcony from which the children could fish.
  • The family arrived in fair weather but a violent storm and heavy rains in the river’s catchment area led to overnight flooding when the river burst its banks. They awoke at midnight to flooded rooms, struggled to escape from the chalet and were unable to save their toddler, who was swept away and drowned in the flood (according to media reports at the time, he was torn from his father’s arms whilst his father and an older brother clung to a tree in the raging flood).
  • The family sued the farmer as owner of the farm, chalet and guest house business. They also claimed against his wife, but this part of the claim failed as she was married to the farmer out of community of property, and had merely assisted him with bookings and administration.
  • As regards the farmer as property owner, although he denied any element of “wrongfulness” (unlawfulness), the Court found that he had built the chalets in a dangerous area, known to experience occasional flooding, and therefore had a legal duty to ensure that they were safe for use by members of the public.
  • The owner also denied any negligence. The flood, he said, was a “freak of nature” and not foreseeable, no such event having been experienced for over 40 years. He had built the chalet 6m above the normal river level and 2.8m over the high water mark pointed out to him by the previous owner.
  • Expert evidence was that the year in question had seen a normal rainfall pattern and that the day in question experienced “high but not abnormal” rainfall. The chalet was built in the “dangerous area” of a 100-year flood line area with no escape route nor flood warning mechanism. Such floods, the expert said, could be expected once every 17-18 years.
  • Critically, the Court found on the evidence that the possibility of heavy flooding was “foreseeable” and that the owner’s failure to take steps to protect chalet occupants rendered him liable.
  • The owner also argued that the family had no right to sue because of disclaimer notices which he said were at the farm entrance warning visitors that they entered at their own risk. He also claimed to have taken reasonable steps to warn occupants of the danger of flooding. On its assessment of conflicting evidence however the Court found that even if there were warning and indemnity notices as claimed, the owner had not proved that they were brought to the family’s attention. In any event, said the Court, it would in this case be unjust and unfair to deny the family its claim.
  • The owner is accordingly liable for whatever damages the family can prove.
Property owners – protect yourself!
  • From a practical point of view you will want to pro-actively investigate any potential risks, manage them, warn your guests/tenants about them and make sure they know how to protect themselves should Mother Nature suddenly spring one of her nasty surprises.
  • The legal side to all that of course is that you should always be able to show that you have taken reasonable steps to protect your guests from all foreseeable risks.
  • Comply also with all building and safety regulations – not doing so immediately puts you in the wrong.
  • Take advice on the use of indemnity/disclaimer/exemption notices on your website, all advertising materials, booking platforms etc, also on the premises themselves and in your contracts. Bear in mind that there are limits to their effectiveness particularly where the Consumer Protection Act or constitutional considerations apply.
  • Insurance – make sure you are covered for any claims of this nature, and that you comply fully with any requirements imposed on you by the insurers.

Most important of all, take professional advice specific to your circumstances!

Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as 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 professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

© LawDotNews

April 20, 2021

KVV | A Note from our Director



By now almost everyone has heard or encountered phrases such as “the new normal” or even more hectic concepts like “VUCA” (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity). No doubt the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic threw the world, as we know it, into a tailspin. Suddenly we found ourselves in the world of uncertainty. We started having discussions we never had before regarding our reality and its volatility. Many became alive to what is important and began to appreciate even the insignificant. A colloquial “walk in the park” was yearned for. Just to make a point.

Our reality may have been bended by a pandemic. However, I submit that it is equally true that humans have experienced worse. Imagine a pandemic in an age where there is no advanced communication, medical devices and advanced science to treat or manage the pandemic. Without digressing I wish to make a point that the human journey is that of resilience.

There have been instances in history where cities were levelled by war, people left hopeless by unexpected life events like the emergence of a pandemic. However, through it all, what has proved to be consistent in every encounter is human resilience. Levelled cities were raised more majestic and what was a novel organism became old and understood.

Like most people, at the peak of the pandemic, when all was but bleak I subscribed to the notion of the “new normal”. But recently, perhaps controversially so I have stated that all I see is return to the “normal” and the “new normal” appears to be dissipating. Perhaps I am experiencing and observing the effects of resilience. Where things inevitably normalize. This is my personal opinion.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage lifes and livelihoods. The cost is too much. The best we can do, I would argue, is to sustain each other while the storm withers. We can do so by extending a helping hand where we can. Protect others by complying to established protocols to curb the spread and be generous where circumstances permit.

I agree with the view that many of the challenges we are facing e.g., economic challenges, existed before the pandemic and were elevated by the advent of COVID-19. Perhaps this is an opportunity for a different perspective on all old challenges and I do not propose a solution. I am however convinced that like many challenges faced before the resilience of humanity will prevail. Despite the costs that we shall count, some recoverable and some, such as the precious human life, not recoverable, the resilience of humanity will prevail.

I am reminded of the brilliance of Walt Whitman as he expresses the passing of a leader just when victory is achieved and laments “O Captain! My Captain!”. Even though there are casualties in this crisis, humanity will prevail. A “new” story will be written and the future will read it when things are “normal”. The human journey is that of resilience.

Though disasters may befall humanity, humanity has a future. At this point allow me to borrow from an age-old wisdom – Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you – this is the LORD’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope – I therefore conclude that the human resilience is ordained and divine.

Kind Regards

Joseph Leotlela   |  Director

April 20, 2021

Who Gets the House on Divorce?

“I am a marvellous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house” (seven-times-divorced actress Zsa Zsa Gabor)
Historically 44% of South African marriages have ended in divorce, and there has reportedly been a 20% surge in new divorce applications since lockdown. For those unfortunate couples whose marriages do eventually fall apart, often the most important asset in play from both a financial and an emotional perspective is the family home. So it is crucial for any couple contemplating marriage, or currently married but considering a split, to understand what our law says about who gets what on divorce. Your divorce order as issued by the divorce court will be the “final word” here. If you have been able to agree on a split of assets and liabilities your agreement will typically be contained in a “consent paper”, and agreement is of course very much “first prize” here. Particularly if you have children – exposing them to a bitter fight over assets and to the risk of having to leave their childhood home and neighbourhood will only add to the disruption and trauma in their lives. In any event if you can’t agree terms, you are in for some emotional, time-hungry and expensive litigation before a court finalises the split for you. A variety of factors will be at play here, all linked to the question of what “marital regime” applies to your marriage so the first question you need to ask is whether you are married in or out of community of property – and if out, does accrual apply?
If you are married in community of property
This is the default marital regime for South African marriages, and if you didn’t sign an ante-nuptial contract (“ANC”) before you married, all your assets and liabilities at date of divorce (with a few specific exceptions) will automatically belong to both of you in “undivided shares” i.e. 50/50. Typically, your divorce order and/or consent paper will provide for one spouse to become the 100% owner, with a suitable financial adjustment between you to account for the value of the other spouse’s 50% share. No formal transfer of the property in the Deeds Office is needed, your attorney will just arrange for an endorsement on the property’s title deed to transfer ownership.
If you are married out of community of property
You have two separate estates and what you bring into the marriage remains yours, as does any growth in asset value during the marriage. As to who keeps (or gets) the house, and as to how much if anything the other spouse must pay in return, that will depend on a host of factors including the terms of your ANC and whether you were married with or without “accrual”. “With accrual” is the default unless you specifically opt to marry “without accrual”. In practice most modern couples specifically opt for accrual, in which event the combined growth in value during the marriage of your two estates will be split between you. If the house is currently registered in only one of your names and that spouse is to keep the house, no formal transfer nor endorsement of the title deed will be necessary. If however the other spouse is to become the registered owner, a full transfer of ownership in the Deeds Office is needed. Although an exemption from transfer duty applies in this case, there will still be other transfer fees and costs to consider. If you are co-owners of the property (in other words, if you are jointly recorded as owners on the title deed) you will almost certainly want to transfer full ownership to the one spouse. Again, a full transfer will be needed (see above re costs). There is however nothing to stop you agreeing on a temporary or permanent continuation of the co-ownership after divorce, perhaps to minimise disruption to your children’s lives, or perhaps while you jointly market and sell it at the best price (in which event your agreement should specify in detail who will pay what costs, what the minimum purchase price will be and so on).
Who pays off the mortgage bond?
If you are currently registered as co-owners, both of you will be equally liable for the full remaining debt owing to the bank. If one of you is the owner and the other is to take transfer, the current owner remains solely liable for the loan debt until released by the bank. Whichever spouse keeps (or takes over) sole ownership of the house will have to make a new loan application to the bank in his/her own name and be substituted as the sole debtor/mortgagor.
If you get the house, how will you pay out your ex-spouse?
As above, normally there will be a financial adjustment between you to compensate the other spouse, and if you don’t have the funds available you may need to ask the bank for a second mortgage. You could of course also agree to sell the house and split the proceeds after settling the existing bond.
What if our house is owned by a trust or company?
Houses and other properties have historically often been held in trusts or companies for estate planning and asset protection purposes, and our courts are regularly called upon to resolve bitter disputes along the lines of “it was all a sham, the house never really belonged the trust, so please Judge order the trust to put it back into the pot as a personal asset”. The spouse making such a claim will generally have to prove some form of “abuse” of the trust before a court will order that the house in fact belongs to the other spouse personally. But there are grey areas here and professional advice specific to your particular circumstances is essential.
Prevention being better than cure….
Your house could well be your marriage’s most important asset both financially and emotionally. Rather than fight over it when divorce looms, seek professional advice before you tie the knot on what marital regime is best for you, and on how best to sort out who gets the house if you should be unlucky enough to part ways down the line. Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as 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 professional adviser for specific and detailed advices

© LawDotNews

April 20, 2021

Buying and Selling Property: Nine Important Questions

“Owning a home is a keystone of wealth… both financial affluence and emotional security” (Personal Finance Expert Suze Orman)
When you buy or sell your “Home Sweet Home”, particularly for the first time, the process can seem complicated, the terminology confusing, and the risks of making a costly mistake intimidating. You are after all dealing with quite possibly your most important asset! To help you navigate the process, as either seller or buyer, here are some common questions, with answers.
1. Where can I get a simple guide to the process?
When you come down to the details it certainly is important to get everything right, but a simple, broad overview to start with will go a long way to de-mystifying the process and to setting you safely onto the right path. Have a look at the Law Society of South Africa’s “Buying or Selling a House: What You Need to Know”. Download it in any of four languages here. Simply and clearly written, the guide is full of really important information and advice, both practical and legal – take the time to read it in depth! Turning now to a few of the other more common questions you will no doubt have…
2. Do I really need legal advice?
Our law reports are full of court disputes that could have been avoided with a simple upfront request for legal advice. The danger of not doing so is that many pitfalls await the unwary and you will be held to anything you agree to. It’s only sensible therefore to take advice early – well before you appoint an agent, start looking for a house, or get involved in submitting offers and negotiating sale agreements. Not having your “offer to purchase” or “agreement of sale” legally checked is a recipe for disaster. Once you sign on the dotted line you are on the hook for everything in the document. With very limited exceptions our law holds you to your signature and it is no good saying later “But I didn’t read the document, it all looked like the normal standard stuff” or “I had no idea I was agreeing to term x or condition y” – tough, you are bound. Bottom line – chat to your attorney before you do anything else! 
3. Whose name/s should I put the property in?
Should you buy the house in your name or in your spouse’s name? Should you buy jointly? Does it matter what marital regime applies to your marriage? What if you are in a permanent cohabitation arrangement rather than a formal marriage? Or perhaps you are wondering whether you should put the house into the name of a company or family trust. Your choice now will have far-reaching legal, tax and practical consequences; and with some complex areas of law involved, specialist upfront advice is a no-brainer.
4. What else should I ask my attorney?
Common areas of dispute and litigation include “bond clauses” and “72-hour clauses” in sale agreements, confusion over the need to identify or disclose both visible and invisible defects, disagreements over what is a “fixture” that comes with the house and what isn’t, misunderstandings over neighbours’ rights to build and encroach on views and the like, not checking for building plans and municipal Certificates of Occupancy (you will have a problem if a previous owner built or extended without proper plans), not checking the zoning and title deed restrictions (which could put a damper on any plans you have to extend, go up a storey, build a home office, or the like), servitudes or other rights of use over the property, limited “home business” options and so on. (Tip: Take lots of “before and after” photos of the house and property with your cell phone – a dated picture is hard to argue with!) Other “homework” items to ask about – what paperwork you will need (do you know where your title deed is?), how long your particular transfer is likely to take (and a linked question “what date of occupation should we agree on?”), to whom deposits and any occupational rental must be paid (and who gets paid the interest earned on monies held in trust), what compliance certificates you need, how to find the best bond rates, whether you might qualify for a FLISP (Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Program) subsidy, how to cancel and open municipal service accounts, the rights of any occupiers (not just tenants, also “unlawful occupiers”), and so on – you will have your own list.
5. What about planning my finances?
Ask your lawyer for a breakdown of who will pay what and when. Think deposits, bond and transfer costs, transfer duty, agent’s commission, bond settlement balances and so on. Cash flow forecasting, and a clear understanding of the timelines involved, are critical here to avoid unpleasant surprises down the line. As a buyer, factor into your “affordability budget” not only bond repayments and your projected regular monthly costs (rates, services, insurance premiums, security costs etc) but also an emergency fund to cover any unexpected costs that may crop up. On the subject of finances, cyber-fraud is a growing issue when it comes to electronic communications and payments so agree with your lawyer on measures to ensure that neither of you falls victim. Fraudulent “here are my new bank account details” emails are flavour of the month, but the scams are constantly evolving.
6. Should I buy-to-let in the current market?
Buying-to-let can be an excellent investment channel, and for a whole host of reasons this time of pandemic and disruption has opened up an abundance of opportunities to prospective landlords. Just don’t rush in blind – choose the right property in the right area, go into the process with your eyes fully open, and in particular beware the common pitfall of failing to minimise your risk of having to fight a difficult, destructive or non-paying tenant. Residential property occupiers enjoy strong protections against eviction even in normal times, and these protections are even stronger for the duration of the National State of Disaster. It is essential also to understand the impact of the Rental Housing Act on the landlord/tenant relationship – do you know for example the specific requirements around rental deposits and joint property inspections? “Ignorance of the law” is no excuse, and non-compliance could cost you dearly.
7. Who appoints the conveyancer and why do I need one?
In a nutshell, you need to appoint a specialist lawyer (a “conveyancer”) to pass transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer in the Deeds Office. That’s because only on registration of the transfer does the buyer become the legal owner of the property. As a seller, insist on choosing the conveyancer – pick a firm you can trust to act with professionalism, integrity and speed.
8. What about buying into a complex?
 Owing a house and living in a community scheme come with substantial benefits, just understand exactly what you are letting yourself in for both on a practical level and in regard to the various rules and regulations you will be agreeing to. Our courts regularly have to sort out bitter (and unnecessary) disputes around owners desperately – and almost always unsuccessfully – trying to get out of complying with body corporate and Home Owners Association rules. Common areas of complaint are home businesses, pet ownership and control, vehicle parking, noise, nuisance objections and the like.
9. What records and paperwork should I keep?     
One thing is certain – the document you don’t keep on file is the one you will be desperately searching for in 10 or 20 years’ time! So when in doubt about a particular item keep it, but at the very least have a file (backed up electronically) with –
  • Your title deed (also called a “deed of transfer”) from the conveyancer. If your property is bonded the bank will keep the original in which event keep a copy plus a note as to which bank has the original. If you lose your title deed you can get a copy but there are delays and costs attached which you really want to avoid when you come to sell again down the line.
  • The full signed agreement of sale and annexures,  The conveyancer’s final statement of account and associated invoices,
  •  All bank loan and bond documents,
  • Your municipal Certificate of Occupancy if you undertook any building work (construction, renovations, extensions etc),
  • A running list with supporting documents of all tax-relevant expenses. For example, keep a running Capital Gains Tax schedule with –
    • A list of expenses relevant to the house’s “base cost” (purchase price, transfer costs and legal fees, bond costs, agent’s commission, costs related to the sale or purchase like advertising, architect’s fees etc) and
    • Ongoing capital expenses i.e. improvements and renovations (but not repairs or maintenance).
  • “Before and after” photos of the house and property,
  • Ask your lawyer if there is anything else you should keep relevant to your particular property and transfer.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as 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 professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.

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