Jacques Viljoen Attorneys Notaries and conveyancers
             
 

Tel: +27 21 914 6661

Fax: +27 21 914 6663

Unit 2
Canal Edge Two
Tyger Waterfront
Carl Cronje Drive
Bellville
7530

P.O. Box 5518
Tygervalley
7536

 
Newsletter

February 2011

 

BLUNT PENCILS, SERVITUDES AND VERBAL CONTRACTS

"The bluntest pencil is better than the sharpest memory" (old adage)

Whilst most verbal agreements are binding in South African law, first prize is always to record them in writing. Otherwise you risk doubt, dispute and delay down the line.

Moreover certain types of contract, including those relating to sale or donation of land or any "interest in land", must be in writing (and signed by all parties) to be valid at all.

The danger of overlooking this requirement is neatly illustrated in a recent High Court case, where an elderly couple in financial difficulties sold their house to their son-in-law subject (per a verbal agreement never recorded in writing) to their having the right to reside there for the rest of their lives.

When relations in the son-in-law's marriage became strained, he sold the house to a third party, and the couple found themselves having to go to court in an attempt to enforce their right to stay in the house.

They failed. The Court held that such a right of occupation, as a personal servitude over the property, was invalid unless reduced to writing and signed. Furthermore such a servitude must be formally registered against the property's title deeds to be enforceable (on registration it can be enforced "against all the world", including any subsequent owners of the land).

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: Judgment in the matter of Van Rensburg and Another v Koekemoer and Others (2006/28207) [2010] ZAGPJHC 91 is available on the Saflii website.



YOUR "PRIVATE" COMPANY: JUST HOW PRIVATE IS YOUR REGISTER OF MEMBERS?


Every company - private as well as public - must keep a register showing the names, addresses and shareholdings of all members.

A recent Supreme Court of Appeal case confirms that -

  • This register is - despite common belief to the contrary - fully open to the public (on payment of a nominal fee), even in the case of a privately-held company
  • It is a criminal offence for a director or company officer to refuse access to the register, or to refuse any request for a copy or extract thereof
  • An applicant need not give any reason for wanting access, and our courts will only decline to enforce access if there is "something special in the circumstances of the case"; for example "where it is shown that the information is sought for some unlawful purpose".

In the case in question, the directors of a share block company refused access to a group wanting to approach members directly as part of a takeover scheme, with talk by the directors of protecting their members' privacy, of protecting them from "predatory practices", and of not permitting the applicants to "exert influence on members".

The Court however ordered that the applicants be given full access to the register, commenting that "the establishment of a company as a vehicle for conducting business is not a private matter".

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: Judgment in the matter of La Lucia Sands Share Block Ltd V Barkhan (37/10) [2010] ZASCA 132 is available on the Saflii website. Note that the Court expressed the view (in paragraph 18 of the judgment) that PAIA will have to be used by non-members once the new Companies Act comes into force.



THE DANGERS OF A DOMICILIUM ADDRESS: AND, WHEN IS DOMICILIUM SERVICE NOT VALID?

Contracts often provide for parties to each choose a domicilium citandi et executandi - a technical term for an address at which you elect to receive all legal notices and documents. Service at this address is considered valid whether or not you actually receive the notice/document, and regardless of whether or not you have since moved or changed address.

So be sure to choose an appropriate address up front - one at which any notices or summonses delivered will actually come to your personal attention. And immediately advise the other party (in writing) of any change of address.

Creditors on the other hand need to note a recent High Court decision in which the Court exercised its discretion to disallow service of a bank's summons against its mortgage debtor by placing it under a rock on vacant land.

Although the debtor had chosen the vacant land as her domicilium (bad choice!), the Court commented that the bank must have had "a great deal of personal information concerning the [debtor]", and concluded that: "In those circumstances it seems unfair that the bank made no further effort whatsoever to contact [the debtor] and notify her that it was taking such drastic action against her."

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: Judgment in the matter of Firstrand Bank Ltd v Gazu (5639/10) [2010] ZAKZPHC 57 (23 September 2010) is available on the Saflii website.



CONSUMERS, SUPPLIERS - REMEMBER THESE 3 NEW RIGHTS, COMING SOON!

Note: what follows is of necessity a summary of selected general principles only - there are limitations and exclusions, and you should seek specific advice in the event of any dispute.


When the CPA (Consumer Protection Act) comes into force (scheduled now for 31 March 2011), consumers will acquire a host of new rights relating to the supply of both services and goods. Note that the protection applies only to -

  • Individuals, and
  • Smaller corporates, partnerships and trusts (provisionally, those with assets or annual turnovers under R3m).

The topic is vast - but if you do nothing else, at least keep these three general principles in mind: -

  • 1.       You are entitled to be supplied good quality, "reasonably suitable", defect-free, durable and safe goods. That means that if anything you buy fails, or turns out to be defective or unsafe -
    • a.       You may return the goods to the supplier - without penalty, and at the supplier's risk and expense - within 6 months of delivery, and
    • b.       You can require the supplier to give you a full refund, or to replace the goods, or to repair them. The choice is yours; the supplier cannot dictate your options to you.

 

  • 2.       If you choose the repair option, and the repair fails (both parts and labour are subject to an implied warranty for 3 months minimum), or if any further defect is discovered during this warranty period, you may return the goods and require either a full refund or replacement.
  • 3.       If you buy anything via "direct marketing" (i.e. the seller approaches you to buy something), you have a 5 business day cooling-off period to cancel the sale - no questions asked. The supplier then has 15 business days to refund you any payments made.

Don't be intimidated by any conditions or contractual terms to the contrary - the CPA will override them.

(Suppliers: where there's a consumer right, there's a corresponding supplier obligation! Review all your documentation and procedures with the above principles in mind.)

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 is available on the Acts Online site, and the DTI's "Your Guide to Consumer Rights & How to Protect Them" is on its website.



THE GREAT "COMMON LAW MARRIAGE" FICTION: DON'T BE LEFT DESTITUTE!

Despite popular perception to the contrary, our law does not recognise the concept of a "common law marriage"; no matter how long a couple has lived together, and regardless of whether or not the relationship has produced children.

Some long-term relationships are partially governed by a miscellany of statutory provisions (good examples being a few tax concessions, and the rights and responsibilities of unmarried fathers introduced by the new Children's Act) but the hard fact is that, if the relationship breaks up, there is very little legal protection in a financial sense for either party outside of a formal marriage or civil union.

The "Domestic Partnership Bill", intended to remedy this situation, has effectively been on ice since 2008, and anyone in an unregulated relationship should take advice urgently on drawing up a full "cohabitation agreement". Make sure that at the very least it covers:-

  • How assets will be divided on termination
  • Who will take over ongoing liabilities and contracts such as leases, bonds, medical and life policies, telephone accounts etc
  • Whether there is any duty of "reciprocal support" (i.e. maintenance)
  • Anything else that will need to be regulated on separation - particularly important if there are children involved.

If there is no such agreement in place, the parties will walk away from a broken relationship with only their "own" assets unless a "universal partnership" is shown to have existed between them. Since the existence of a universal partnership can be extremely difficult to prove in practice, there have been many unfortunate cases of life partners left destitute (and homeless) after decades of cohabitation.

Even if a universal partnership is eventually proved to have existed, there is no guarantee of a 50/50 split. Thus the High Court recently awarded only 30% of a businessman's net assets to a woman who, after 19 years' cohabitation with him, was held to have contributed to his business by providing a "stable family environment" rather than by any day-to-day involvement in its operation.

Avoid all that uncertainty, cost, delay and dispute with a properly-drawn cohabitation agreement!

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The draft Domestic Partnerships Bill 2008 is available on the Creamer Media website.

The judgment in Mncora v Butters, Butters v Mncora (881/2008, 3055/2010) [2010] ZAECPEHC 72 is available on the Saflii website.




THE FEBRUARY WEBSITES: MASSIVE DISCOUNTS WITH GROUP BUYING POWER!

Some good news here for both businesses and the buying public, particularly welcome in these tough economic conditions - "Group Buying"!

Here's how it works: -

  • 1.       A supplier of goods or services, hungry for more business, offers the public a substantial discount on a selected product or service
  • 2.       The discount offer is dependent on a large enough uptake by consumers
  • 3.       As soon as the critical number of takers is reached, the discount applies, and the sales take place.

Everyone's a winner!

  • The supplier increases sales
  • The consumer gets a bargain

The basic concept has been around forever, but the Internet has leveraged it as never before - originating in China as the "Tuangou" phenomenon, it has been spreading rapidly around the world, and has at last reached South African shores.

Of course suppliers can - and do - put their own offers together. But the really exciting concept is the specialised website that does it all for you via the power of the Internet - managing the entire process of finding and negotiating deals from suppliers, taking offers from the public, and facilitating the final sales.

Try these local sites: -


Have a great February - and don't forget ♥ Valentine's Day ♥ on the 14th!



January 2011


SELLERS: BEWARE SURPRISE COMMISSION CLAIMS!

What should you do, as seller of a property, if the buyer assures you that he/she was not introduced to the property by any estate agent, and that you are accordingly not liable for any commission?

The saving in commission will no doubt in practice be shared between you and the buyer when you come to negotiate a final sale price, but beware! If it subsequently emerges that the buyer has misled you, and that an agent was actually the "effective cause" of the sale in circumstances entitling the agent to commission, you will have to pay up.

That's exactly what happened in a recent High Court case where a seller was sued for commission, and ended up paying the agent R131.056 plus legal costs.

Fortunately, you have an effective way to protect yourself from this type of unpleasant surprise - ensure that your sale agreement with the buyer: -

  • 1.       Records that you have dealt directly with each other without any introduction by an agent, and
  • 2.       Contains an indemnity by the buyer for any unforeseen commission claim against you.

In the case in question, a properly-drawn indemnity clause saved the day for the seller, who obtained judgment against the buyer for all his losses.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: Judgment in the matter of Furman and Another v Batha (10044/07) [2010] ZAGPJHC 85 is available on the Saflii website.


UNFAIRLY DISMISSED? DON'T LOSE YOUR COMPENSATION CLAIM!

If you are unfairly dismissed, don't assume that you are automatically entitled to compensation. Whilst our law offers you strong protection from unfair labour practices, there are still instances in which your actions could prejudice your claim for redress.

That is exactly what happened in a recent case before the Supreme Court of Appeal, in which a medical doctor had, both sides agreed, been unfairly dismissed by her employer. However the employer, on realising his mistake, made several offers of reinstatement "genuinely and in good faith". The employee resolutely declined these offers, and took alternative employment (at a higher salary, but after 4 months of unemployment).

The Court found that "the rejection of the repeated offers of reinstatement was unreasonable and she has only herself to blame for her financial loss" - accordingly, no compensation was payable.

The outcome would have been different had she been able to justify her refusal of the reinstatement offers by, for example, showing that there had been a breach of trust that could not be restored, the Court commenting that "... these are two professional people who might be expected to resolve any acrimony that might earlier have existed".

Employees: if you are unfairly dismissed, take proper advice before rejecting any offer of reinstatement (or any other remedy offered).

Employers: first prize of course is to handle any dismissal proceedings correctly from the start - but if you do make a mistake, take advice immediately on how best to correct it.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Rawlins v Dr DC Kemp t/a Centralmed (483/09) [2010] ZASCA 102 is on the Saflii website (note also the SCA's confirmation (in paragraph 11 of the judgment) of the general principle that "a court's remedial powers are compensatory and not punitive" - which would have been relevant in calculating the amount of compensation had any been payable).


"FAMILY LOANS" - WHEN CAN'T YOU RECOVER THEM?


"Neither a borrower nor a lender be" (Shakespeare)


Strange as it may seem, the provisions of the NCA (National Credit Act) may well apply to some "family loans", even those between parent and child.

That's important, because loans can be difficult to recover (even unenforceable) if you don't abide by the NCA's multitude of requirements and credit worthiness checks. In addition, the NCA requires that certain formalities be complied with before any legal action to enforce repayment is taken. You must for example deliver a notice to the borrower drawing attention to the default, and proposing that he/she refers the credit agreement for arbitration, counselling etc.

In a case recently before the High Court, a mother had lent her daughter R600.000, on extremely favourable terms, to assist her in buying a seaside property. The loan was subject to various conditions including payment of monthly interest on the loan, and registration of a second bond as security. The mother sued for repayment when the daughter breached these conditions - but the Court found that the loan was subject to the NCA, and that the claim was defective for lack of the required notice.

The NCA applies "to every credit agreement between parties dealing at arm's length", so a loan between relatives will always have to be tested against the "arm's length" principle. The NCA specifically covers this situation, providing that it will not apply where the parties are: -

  • 1.       In a "familial relationship"; and
  • 2.       Dependent or co-dependent on each other.

The question of dependency is, therefore, key. In this case, although of course a very close family relationship was involved, the mother and daughter were found to be "in fact and in law independent of each other". Moreover, "they strove to gain the maximum possible benefit from the transaction for themselves" - another indication that the transaction was indeed an arm's length one. The NCA therefore applied.

Although the Court referred to "the parties' unique circumstances" in this case, one may envisage many circumstances in which an older relative might loan monies to a younger one in return for some reciprocal benefit, perhaps including - as in this case - a regular monthly income from interest.

It seems that you should carefully consider the enforceability of any such family arrangement with reference to the stringent requirements of the NCA.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Beets v Swanepoel (2150/09) [2010] ZANCHC 55 is on the Saflii website.



UNLAWFUL ARREST: MORE PROTECTION FOR THE PUBLIC

Anyone who is arrested unlawfully should immediately seek advice on claiming damages.

Until now, such claims - and the attendant legal costs - have been paid by Government. As the High Court has pointed out in a recent judgment, the result is that effectively we the public have been footing the bill for the unconstitutional actions of officials "who think that they can do as they please, simply because they have the force of the whole law enforcing system behind them".

That however looks set to change. In the case in question, a motorist had been arrested by the Metro police and then detained by SAPS, who refused to release him on "police bail" (which the police are obliged to consider granting in less serious matters). The Court, in an urgent late-night application, ordered the motorist's immediate release.

Thereafter, holding both the arrest and the detention to have been unlawful, the Court ordered that: -

  • The costs of the application be paid, not by the State as would normally be the case, but by the Metro Police and SAPS officers themselves in their personal capacities,
  • The officers must personally pay not just the motorist's legal costs, but also those incurred by the State and by the National Commissioner of Police,
  • The punitive "attorney and own client" scale is to be applied to these costs.

Note that the Court's warning isn't confined to just police officers, but applies to all public officials: "Any public official who knows that he would be ordered personally to pay costs of any court application or litigation flowing from his unlawful actions, instead of the taxpayer having to carry such a burden, and such an official not suffering any consequences therefrom, will think twice before acting in the manner and fashion those responsible in this matter had acted."

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Coetzee v National Commissioner of Police and Others (70259/09) [2010] ZAGPPHC 155 is on the Saflii website.


IMPERSONATED ON TWITTER? VICTIM OF CYBER-BULLYING? YOUR REMEDY

With the exponential growth in the use of Twitter and other social media for both personal and business communication, you could be faced at some time with one or both of these unfortunate situations: -

  • You and/or your business are impersonated on Twitter by some anonymous competitor or jokester using your name and/or trade names.
  • Or perhaps you (more likely your children) become victims of "cyber-bullying".

What can you do about it?

If Twitter itself can't resolve the problem for you (they do try to prevent abuse, but for example decline to "intervene in disputes between users", and allow "parody" as opposed to "impersonation"), take advice on whether you can get a court order interdicting the impersonator from continuing.

Your challenge here is that the Internet is a fantastic hiding place for anonymity, so you may well struggle to find the impersonator/bully in order to serve the court order on him/her.

But there may be a remedy. Although normally court process must be served on the other party either personally or in one of several other prescribed ways, the court may (on application) allow you to effect what is called "substituted service". This might involve publication in the local media and government gazette, service via fax or e-mail, or perhaps service on a relative of the impersonator - but of course none of those are likely to help much with an anonymous tormentor who could be operating from anywhere!

The answer might well lie in service via social media itself. An increasing number of foreign countries have been allowing service via Facebook in appropriate cases, and the English High Court has even allowed service via Twitter. Hopefully our courts will likewise rise to this new challenge.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: See Rules 4 and 5 of the Uniform Rules of Court (as at 26 June 2009) on the Department of Justice website.

The UK case is reported by Reuters, with further comment on the website of Griffin Law Solicitors.

Twitter's policies on impersonation and cyber-bullying are on their website.



THE JANUARY WEBSITES: PLAN YOUR 2011 NOW

Plan your 2011 now -

  • 1.       Download a "year-at-a-glance" planner from HRA Consulting's website at http://tinyurl.com/2011-year-planner.
  • 2.       Replace the UK public holidays with our South African ones. Use the 2011 calendar (showing public and school holidays, "special days", eclipses and meteor showers, with a link to a moon phase calendar) on Kwathabeng's "Safari Calendar South Africa" page http://tinyurl.com/kwathabeng-co-za.
  • 3.       Now turn your New Year Resolutions into actual results with the "SMART" system - see Entrepreneur Magazine's "Goal Setting Guide" at http://tinyurl.com/entrepreneurmag-co-za.
  • 4.       Insert your target dates into your year planner from step 1, and review your progress regularly!



Most importantly - have a Healthy, Happy and Successful 2011!



November 2010


THE BAD BOND CLAUSE THAT SANK THE SALE!

With property sales regularly falling through when the bank turns down the buyer's application for a bond, don't be tempted to word your bond clause too widely.

The danger of doing so is clearly illustrated in a matter recently before the High Court, where a developer had worded its sale agreement in such a way as to allow it to extend ("in its absolute discretion", and with neither notice to, nor permission from, the buyer) the time within which the buyer had to obtain a bond.

In effect, it depended "entirely on the will" of the seller to determine whether or not the buyer had performed in terms of the bond clause; and that, held the Court, rendered it "void for vagueness".

The buyer accordingly escaped from the sale.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Riverspray Lifestyle Estate (Pty) Ltd v Auby (61073/2009) [2010] ZAGPPHC 99 is on the Saflii website.



MINORITY SHAREHOLDERS - YOUR RIGHTS RE MEMBERS' MEETINGS

As a company shareholder, you have, per a recent High Court judgment, the following rights (subject only to "any justifiable limitation imposed by the Articles of Association") in regard to any members' meeting: -

  • To attend the meeting, and
  • To participate fully in its proceedings, and
  • In particular, to address members present, to speak for or against any motion tabled for adoption, and to register your vote for or against the motion.

Critically, these rights extend to all members, including minority shareholders. Thus, you cannot be excluded from a meeting merely because your voting power is insufficient to alter the outcome of voting at the meeting.

In the case in question, a group of minority shareholders opposed resolutions to be voted upon in a company's Annual General Meeting. They had given proxies to proxy holders to speak and to vote on their behalf at the AGM. However the Chairman of the meeting excluded the proxy holders from it, holding that their proxies were invalid.

During the subsequent court case, the invalidity issue fell away, but it was argued that in any event the voting power in question was too small to have changed the result of the voting.

The Court however held that the voting power of the minority shareholders was irrelevant. Their exclusion amounted to "a violation of their right as members of the company to participate in the decision making process".

The resolutions passed at the AGM were set aside accordingly.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Louw and Others v SA Mohair Brokers Ltd and Others (3682/09) [2010] ZAECPEHC 37 is on the Saflii website.



RUNNING A BUSINESS IN A RESIDENTIAL ESTATE: IS NEIGHBOURS' CONSENT NECESSARY?

Whether or not a homeowner in a residential estate is permitted to carry on any form of business - and if so, how - will normally be governed primarily by the constitution of the estate's Home Owners Association, and by any rules or regulations made by it.

There is also a strong indication in a recent High Court judgment that, whenever a business is so permitted to operate, it will as a matter of course require the actual consent of other home owners - at least of the immediate neighbours.

The case in question saw a home owner running a children's playgroup from her house. She had none of the necessary government and other statutory permits but had applied for them, and the only point at issue was whether or not she needed the consent of her neighbours.

The Court, holding that "the consent of the respondent's neighbours in any event ought to be obtained if regard is to be had to the communal rights and interests of the owners and residents in the estate", ordered her to obtain both such consent, and the permits.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Dainfern Valley Home Owners Association v Falconer and Others (2009/51286) [2010] ZAGPJHC 69 is on the Saflii website.



CASH TRANSACTIONS OVER R25.000 - NEW FICA REPORTING DUTIES FOR AGENTS, BROKERS ETC

FICA (the Financial Intelligence Centre Act) has always obliged a long list of "accountable and reporting institutions" to report any "suspicious" transactions to the Centre.

That obligation has now been extended to every cash transaction - "suspicious" or not - over R25.000. Note that "cash" in this respect includes foreign currency and traveller's cheques, and that both payments and receipts fall into the net.

The roll-out comes in two phases: -

  • 1.       Phase 1: this kicked off on 4 October with casinos, motor vehicle dealers and attorneys
  • 2.       Phase 2: all other designated institutions and individuals become liable to report from 1 December. The list includes estate agents, long-term insurance brokers, investment advisors, Kruger Rand dealers, financial instrument traders, and a host of others.

Take advice if you aren't sure of your obligations here - heavy penalties attach to non-compliance!

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The amended version of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act, Act 38 of 2001, is available on the Acts Online website. Schedules 1 and 3 list the "institutions" affected.

The Centre itself provides full guidelines for reporting bodies, and instructions for acquiring secure login credentials, on its website www.fic.gov.za.



TROUBLE ON THE PICKET LINE: 'STRIKING' A BALANCE

The right of strikers to picket is enshrined in our law, and the "Code of Good Practice on Picketing" (issued in terms of the Labour Relations Act) sets out guidelines aimed at ensuring that strikers are able to picket effectively.

They must exercise these rights in an organised, lawful and peaceful manner. So whilst picketers may "carry placards", "chant slogans", and "sing and dance", they must be "unarmed", and must not: -

  • "Interfere with the constitutional rights of other persons"
  • "Prevent members of the public, including customers, other employees and service providers, from gaining access to or leaving the employer's premises"
  • "Commit any action which may be unlawful, including but not limited to any action which is, or may be perceived to be violent".

The balancing act for courts is always going to be to find a fair compromise between the competing rights of employers, strikers, non-striking employees, and members of the public.

Thus, the High Court recently ordered strikers picketing at a shopping mall to "lower their noise level" on the basis that the noise they were generating had "disturbed and intimidated members of the public and disrupted normal business operations", and amounted to the mall's tenants suffering "an unacceptable and unjustifiable limitation on their right to their property, to trade and to a healthy environment."

Beyond the noise factor, our law stresses the need for all parties to act lawfully and peacefully. Any form of violence, intimidation, or destruction of property is likely to amount to both criminal conduct subject to prosecution, and misconduct justifying disciplinary action (with dismissal an appropriate sanction in some cases) - take advice in doubt.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Growthpoint Properties Ltd v South Africa Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) and Others (6467/2010) [2010] ZAKZDHC 38 is on the Saflii website.

The Labour Relations Act, Act no. 66 of 1995 (see in particular section 69) and the "Code of Good Practice on Picketing" are available at Acts Online.




SURVIVING SPOUSE MAINTENANCE: WHEN IS IT PAYABLE? AND HOW?

Spouses in our law have a reciprocal "duty of support" and, when one spouse dies, this "primary obligation" is transferred to the deceased's estate.

The surviving spouse must, per a recent Supreme Court of Appeal decision, firstly establish that he/she is unable to provide for his/her "own reasonable maintenance needs from his/her 'own means and earnings'".

In determining this, a court has to consider the survivor's -

  • Existing and expected means (which excludes, held the Court, any "financial generosity" from third parties, such as the assistance that the surviving spouse in this case had been receiving from her children),
  • Earning capacity,
  • Financial needs and obligations,
  • Age and life expectancy at the time of death,
  • Standard of living during the marriage.

Any other relevant factors (such as how long the marriage had subsisted) will also come into play.

The court must also consider the "amount in the estate available for distribution to heirs and legatees", i.e. the deceased estate's ability to meet a maintenance claim.

In establishing this, the Court held that the proceeds of any life assurance policies with named beneficiaries must be excluded from the calculation. And - an important practical issue for executors - any maintenance obligation can be settled by way of a lump sum payout, rather than ongoing monthly payments.

Executors need also to take heed of the Court's award in this case of punitive costs against the executors in their personal capacities - they were heavily criticised for failing to end this protracted litigation by way of a negotiated settlement.

Don't subject your loved ones to the delay and acrimony of such a dispute - have your will drawn professionally to ensure that your spouse's financial needs are properly catered for once you are gone.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Oshry NO and Another v Feldman (401/09) [2010] ZASCA 95 is on the Saflii website.



THE NOVEMBER WEBSITE: "TED" TALKS

TED Talks ("Ideas Worth Spreading") at www.ted.com gives free online access to more than 100 "Riveting Talks by Remarkable People".

They are hugely popular, with over 290 million views to date, and cover a wide range of thought-provoking subjects as varied as these examples: -

  • "How to Live Before You Die"
  • "The Web's Secret Stories"
  • "Brain Magic"
  • "Where Good Ideas Come From"
  • "The Happy Planet Index"
  • "The Surprising Science of Motivation"
  • "Economic Reality Check"
  • "New Insights on Poverty"
  • .......and many more.



Have a great November!

October 2010

SONERING - ONTWIKKELAARS EN MUNISIPALE OWERHEDE WEES GEWAARSKU!

'n Ongewone waarskuwing word in 'n onlangse uitspraak deur die Hoë Hof aan ontwikkelaars gerig. Moenie van die plaaslike owerheid verwag om te weet wat die regte sonering van jou eiendom is nie!

Die aanloop tot hierdie uitspraak was die volgende:-

  • Die ontwikkelaar het 'n skriftelike soneringsertifikaat van die plaaslike owerheid verkry. Dit het die sonering van die eiendom as "Algemeen Kommersieel 2" aangedui.

  • Die ontwikkelaar het vervolgens professionele kontrakteurs aangestel; asook bouplanne vir die uitleg en oprigting van 'n vertoonlokaal en verwante geriewe vir 'n motorhandelaar op die perseel laat opstel.

  • Hierdie bouplanne is by die plaaslike owerheid ingedien.

  • Die plaaslike owerheid het hierdie bouplanne goedgekeur.

  • Die ontwikkelaar se boukontrakteur het met bouwerk op die perseel begin.

  • Die aanliggende eienaars het besware teen die bouwerk by die plaaslike owerheid ingedien.

  • Die plaaslike owerheid besluit toe dat die regte sonering van die perseel eerder "Beperk Kommersieel" is en dat die planne nie goedgekeur kon word nie. Blykbaar het hulle aanvanklik gesteun op onvolledige soneringskaarte wat deur 'n derde party opgestel is.

  • Hierna eis die plaaslike owerheid dat die ontwikkelaar onmiddellik verdere konstruksie moet staak.

  • Twee maande later word hierdie verbod opgehef en word daar weer voortgebou.

  • Die bure verkry 'n interdik wat verdere bouwerk tot stilstand bring. Die hof stem saam dat die regte sonering vir die perseel "Beperk Kommersieel" moet wees. Die vorige goedkeuring van die planne word gevolglik ter syde gestel.

  • Die betrokke boukontrakteur dagvaar die plaaslike owerheid vir gevolgskade vir verspilde kostes en uitgawes in die bedrag van R1 018 079, 64.


Die plaaslike owerheid beroep hom op die statutêre bepalings waardeur 'n munisipaliteit gevrywaar word teen eise wat ingedien word vir skade as gevolg van die nalatige uitvoering van amptelike pligte. Ongelukkig vir die ontwikkelaar gee die hof die plaaslike owerheid gelyk en bevind dat dit inderdaad nie aanspreeklik gehou kan word nie, al het sy munisipale amptenare nalatiglik die verkeerde soneringsertifikaat uitgereik.

[Die hof bevind in die algemeen dat nasionale wetgewing geen sodanige immuniteit verleen nie. Die vrywaring waarop suksesvol beroep word, word verleen in terme van plaaslike (KZN) ordinansies. Hierdie betrokke ordinansies is intussen herroep.]

Ontwikkelaars wees gewaarsku - doen jou eie navorsing oor die regte sonering; verkry beplanningsadvies of regsadvies, of beide, indien daar teenstrydighede opduik.

Plaaslike owerhede - maak seker dat daar behoorlike dekking in plek is vir hierdie tipe eise. Die betrokke munisipaliteit sou waarskynlik aanspreeklik gewees het om skadevergoeding te betaal, indien die statutêre beskerming nie in plek was nie. Soos hierbo aangedui geld hierdie beskerming nie meer nie, so skadevergoedingseise teen munisipaliteite is dus 'n werklike risiko.

PROBLEME MET JOU KREDIETREKORD? HANTERING VAN VERSTEKVONNISSE

Verstekvonnisse word gewoonlik in twee gevalle deur die hof toegestaan: -

  1. Volgens jou is die eis nie geregverdig nie en jy wil die eis betwis. Jou kennisgewing van verweer word nie betyds by die hof ingedien nie. Gewoonlik omdat jy nie bewus was van die eis nie, aangesien die eis nooit persoonlik op jou beteken was nie; of

  2. Jy erken dat die bedrag verskuldig is en jy wil dit betaal.

In beide gevalle sal jou kredietrekord negatief beïnvloed word. Indien jy iets hieraan wil doen, sal jy regshulp moet inwin om die vonnisse by die betrokke hof ter syde te laat stel. Hier is ook tydsbeperkinge ter sprake - so moenie die proses uitstel nie.

Hou ook in gedagte dat die Hoë Hof en die Landdroshof verskillende vereistes stel vir die tersydestelling van vonnisse.

  • In die Landdroshof -
    1. Indien jy ontken dat die geld verskuldig is en jy die eis wil verdedig, moet jy eerstens 'n verduideliking gee waarom jy voorheen nie betyds reageer het nie en tweedens moet jy kortliks jou verweer teen die eis openbaar.

    2. Indien jy die eis erken, kan jy -

    I. Die skuldeiser se skriftelike toestemming verkry dat die vonnis ter syde gestel kan word (die skuldeiser sal uiteraard eers aandring op die ontvangs van volle betaling), of

    II. Waar die skuldeiser weier om sy toestemming tot tersydestelling te verleen, sal jy moet aantoon dat daar goeie rede bestaan vir die vonnis om tersyde gestel te word, selfs al gaan jy nie die eis verdedig nie. Jy sal aan die hof moet aantoon dat daar geen opsetlike versuim aan jou kant teenwoordig was nie en dat jy binne 'n redelike tyd nadat die vonnis tot jou kennis gekom het, opgetree het. Jy sal ook moet aantoon dat die skuldbedrag binne 'n redelike tyd ten volle vereffen is, of dat aanvaarbare reëlings getref is vir die vereffening van die volle skuldbedrag.

  • In die Hoë Hof word 'n verduideliking altyd benodig. Of jy die eis betwis of nie, sal jy steeds voldoende redes moet aanvoer vir die tersydestelling van vonnis. Dit is 'n tweeledige toets-

    1. Jy sal eerstens 'n redelike en aanvaarbare verduideliking vir jou versuim om betyds op te tree, moet gee.

    2. Tweedens sal jy moet aantoon dat jy oor 'n bona fide verweer teen die eis beskik en dat die verweer 'n vooruitsig op sukses het.

Dit is belangrik om daarop te let dat skriftelike toestemming tot tersydestelling van die skuldeiser nie genoeg is in 'n saak in die Hoë Hof nie. Of jy die eis wil betwis of nie - jy moet steeds aantoon dat jy 'n verweer teen die eis het. Anders gaan jy met die negatiewe gevolge van 'n verstekvonnis moet saamleef. Eers na 5 jaar word die vonnis dan in gevolge die bepalings van die Nasionale Kredietwet outomaties geskrap.

DIE NUWE MAATSKAPPYWET EN DIE VERBRUIKERSBESKERMINGSWET UITGESTEL

Twee belangrike stukke wetgewing met ingrypende gevolge in die handelswêreld sou in Oktober 2010 in werking tree. Beide is op 'n baie laat stadium uitgestel.

  • Die nuwe Maatskappywet, wat ingrypende veranderinge vir alle regsentiteite inhou, sou aanvanklik vanaf 1 Oktober 2010 in werking tree. Hierdie datum is intussen na 1 April 2011 verskuif.

  • Die Wet op Verbruikersbeskerming bied wye beskerming aan die verbruiker. Dit sou op 24 Oktober 2010 in werking tree; ons verstaan dat die teikendatum vir implementering nou aangeskuif is na 1 April 2011.

STAKING! WANNEER HET JY MET 'N BESKERMDE STAKING TE MAKE? WANNEER SAL ONTSLAG BILLIK WEES?

Alle werknemers - en alle werkgewers - behoort die algemene beginsels wat op stakings van toepassing is, te verstaan.

As 'n algemene reël moet ons besef dat werknemers 'n grondwetlike reg het om te staak. (Daar is wel uitsonderings en beperkinge hierop.) Werkgewers het op hul beurt weer die ooreenstemmende reg om werkers uit te sluit.

Stakings kan in twee kategorieë ingedeel word: -

  1. 'n "Beskermde" staking is een wat voldoen aan die voorskrifte van die Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge. In hierdie geval sal enige afdanking van werknemers outomaties onbillik wees (die stakende werknemers sal wel moet bewys dat daar aan die wetsvoorskrifte voldoen is om hierdie beskerming te verkry.)

  2. 'n "Onbeskermde" staking is een wat nie voldoen aan die bepalings van die Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge nie.

Indien 'n staking nie beskerming geniet nie, kan deelname daaraan as wangedrag bevind word. Dit kan aanleiding gee tot ontslag.

Die Kode van Goeie Praktyk oor Ontslag bepaal dat daar steeds 'n bevinding gemaak moet word of ontslag wel substantief billik is. Die Kode bepaal dat die feitelike omstandighede saam met die ondervermelde faktore oorweeg moet word, wanneer 'n bevinding oor die billikheid van ontslag gemaak word: -

  • a. Die erns van die oortreding van die wet;

  • b. Enige pogings aan die kant van die stakende werknemers om wel aan die voorskrifte van die wet te voldoen; en

  • c. 'n Ondersoek of die staking in reaksie was op enige ongeregverdigde optrede aan die kant van die werkgewer.

Die ultimatum: Wanneer 'n werkgewer met 'n onbeskermde staking te doene het, moet die ultimatum wat aan werknemers gegee word om terug te keer werk toe, met omsigtigheid hanteer word. Die Arbeidshof sê die volgende hieroor in 'n onlangse uitspraak: " .......the ultimatum should be communicated to the striking employees, in clear and unambiguous terms and should set out what is required of them, including the time-frames within which they are expected to comply, and should indicate the possible consequences of a failure to comply". As werkgewer moet jy dit duidelik aan werknemers kommunikeer dat diegene wat nie gehoor gee aan die ultimatum om hul werk te hervat nie, afgedank sal word. Werknemers moet wel 'n redelike tyd gegee word om op die ultimatum te reageer.

In die volgende nuusbrief: sal ons kyk na wat stakende werknemers mag doen en nie mag doen nie wanneer dit by protes- en brandwaglinies ("picket lines") kom.

DOBBEL AANLYN - IS ALLE WEDDENSKAPPE NOU AF?

Indien jy enigsins betrokke is by die aanlyn-dobbelindustrie behoort jy te weet dat daar in Suid Afrika sterk hierteen te velde getrek word.

In 'n onlangse uitspraak van die Hoë Hof is bevind dat aanlyn-dobbel onwettig is. (Weddenskappe op sportgebeurtenisse via gelisensieerde weddenskapsmakelaars en totalisators word hierby uitgesluit en is dus wel wettig.) Hiervolgens het die Nasionale Dobbelraad aangedui dat hulle nie alleen teen aanlyn dobbelhuise en dobbelaars gaan optree nie, maar ook teen verwante diensverskaffers. Dit is dus enigeen wat onwettige dobbelaktiwiteite adverteer, fasiliteer of op enige wyse bemark of bevorder.

Soos te wagte waar daar soveel geld ter sprake is, het die dobbelindustrie teen die bevel appèl aangeteken. Van die aanlyn - "casino's" doen steeds sake hangende die uitslag van die appèl. Die Gauteng Dobbelraad het reeds gewaarsku dat hulle aansoek sal doen vir die verbeurdverklaring van enige aanlyn-dobbelinkomste wat sedert die oorspronklike uitspraak van 20 Augustus gevorder is, as synde die opbrengs uit misdaad, indien die appèl onsuksesvol is.

Of sodanige optrede regmatig sal wees of suksesvol sal wees of afdwingbaar sal wees is natuurlik oop vir spekulasie. Indien jou besigheid op hierdie terrein beweeg en nog steeds handel dryf behoort jy solank advies hieroor in te win.

Die Departement van Handel en Nywerheid se Dobbel Hersieningskommissie behoort binnekort hul verslag uit te bring. Hulle ondersoek ook die wenslikheid om aanlyn-dobbelhuise te lisensieer om wettiglik in Suid Afrika sake te doen, onderhewig daaraan dat hulle ook fisies in Suid Afrika gevestig moet wees.

Die konsepregulasies maak daarvoor voorsiening dat aanlyn-dobbel onder streng beperkinge en beheer gewettig kan word. Die beheer oor hul stelsels en webwerwe sal onder andere gemik wees om te verseker dat minderjariges nie kan dobbel nie en dat die Staat sy deel by wyse van belasting en heffings sal verkry.

OKTOBERMAAND SE WEBWERF : HOE OM VAN DIE INTERNET TE VERDWYN

Vandag word dit algemeen uit 'n bemarkingsoogpunt aanvaar dat 'n suksesvolle besigheid of besigheidspersoon 'n sigbare webteenwoordigheid moet hê. In ons professionele sowel as ons sosiale lewens word dit al hoe belangriker dat enigiemand wat na ons soek, ons op die internet behoort te kan vind.

Sou jy egter besluit om vir welke redes ookal, minder sigbaar in die kuberruim te raak, sal jy vind dat dit nie so maklik is om net te verdwyn nie.

Daar is darem hulp via die Wikispan. "How to delete yourself from the Internet" op die WikiHow webwerf te http://www.wikihow.com/Delete-Yourself-from-the-Internet is 'n uitstekende gids om jou deur die proses te neem om jouself van die internet te verwyder. Dit word gereeld bygewerk - 'n noodsaaklikheid in hierdie tye van deurlopende veranderinge - en dit is 'n volledige handleiding wat al jou vrae behoort te antwoord en die gewenste resultaat van onsigbaarheid vir jou sal gee.

Geniet Oktobermaand.... (en die Tiene wat om 10:10:10 vm op 10/10/10 kortstondig in gelid gaan wees.... )

September 2010
EIENDOM: ONTWIKKELAARS, AGENTE, VERKOPERS, KOPERS EN BOUERS - NUWE WETGEWING BINNEKORT IN WERKING

Die Wet op Verbruikersbeskerming behoort in Oktober 2010 in werking te tree.

Dit sal 'n omwenteling meebring in die regte van enige koper wat voortaan eiendom in Suid Afrika koop. So wees ingelig en wees voorbereid.

Eerstens, die Wet op Verbruikersbeskerming sal nie op alle eiendomstransaksies van toepassing wees nie:-
  • Dit sal waarskynlik nie van toepassing wees op die bekende en algemene eiendomstransaksie waar 'n bestaande huiseienaar sy eiendom direk aan 'n ander persoon verkoop nie. Dit is eerder gemik op grootskaalse handelsverkopers, soos ontwikkelaars, eiendomspekulante en ander eiendomshandelaars. Die toetsvraag is of jy gereeld eiendomme as deel van jou sakebedrywighede verkoop.
  • Die wet is wel in geheel op eiendomsagente van toepassing; op hul algemene bemarkingspraktyke en op alle mandate wat hulle van beide verkopers en kopers ontvang (ook in algemene eiendomstransaksies hierbo genoem). Agente, wat uiteraard ook integraal is in die verskaffingskanaal, mag vind dat hulle saam met ontwikkelaars, bouers en eiendomspekulante teenoor die verbruiker aanspreeklik gehou kan word vir gebreke in die eiendom.
Waar die wet wel van toepassing is, word die volgende vereis: -
  • Billike en redelike bemarking. Bemarking wat op enige wyse misleidend of bedrieglik is, word verbied.
  • Dokumentasie moet in eenvoudige en verstaanbare taal opgestel word.
  • Regverdige en eerlike handelsoptrede. Misleidende of valse voorstellings, woordeliks of stilswyend deur optrede ge-impliseer, word deur die wet verbied.
  • Billike, regverdige en redelike terme en voorwaardes.
  • Billike waarde, goeie kwaliteit en veilige produkte en dienste.
Dit is duidelik dat die koper (eindverbruiker) die voordeel van hierdie wydlopende beskerming sal geniet. Die vereiste van billike waarde hou in dat die koopprys ondersoek kan word om te bepaal of dit redelik is. Die "voetstoots" klousule is ook in die spervuur en daar word gespekuleer dat dit nie meer afdwingbaar sal wees nie. Die koper sal die reg hê om defektiewe huise terug te gee en/of aan te dring op die herstel van gebreke; nieteenstaande enige klousules in die koopoooreenkoms wat die teendeel aandui.

In gevalle waar die partye gaan litigeer, sal die howe nie net die koopooreenkomste self beoordeel nie, maar ook alle voorafgaande onderhandelinge. Alle voorstellings en waarborge wat deur die verkoper en / of sy agente aan die koper gemaak is, sal ook in ag geneem word by die hantering van die dispuut.

Ter opsomming: Ontwikkelaars, bouers, eiendomspekulante en eiendomsagente - vergewis julle van die inhoud van die verbruikerswetgewing wat eersdaags in werking gaan tree.

Maak seker dat kopers regverdig, regmatig en billik hanteer word; dat hul verstaan wat hulle koop en ook die terme en voorwaardes waarop hulle koop, verstaan; en dat hulle kry waarvoor hulle betaal. Hou skriftelike rekords, nie net van die getekende koopooreenkomste nie, maar ook van alle voorafgaande onderhandelinge, voorstellings wat gemaak word en bemarkingsmateriaal wat gebruik is.

In gepaste gevalle sal dit die agent en die verkoper / ontwikkelaar baat om 'n
volledige, onafhanklike inspeksieverslag aan te vra met die voltooiing van bouwerk (of van die bestaande strukture indien die geboue reeds bewoon was).

Neem kennis: Ons het hier met komplekse wetgewing te doene. Die kommentaar hierbo vervat is van 'n algemene aard; daar is nog baie grys areas ter sprake. Soos wat hierdie wetgewing in die hof getoets word, sal die howe in tyd verdere riglyne, uitleg en interpretasie oor die praktiese toepassing daarvan gee. Indien daar dus by u twyfel oor u spesifieke geval bestaan, is dit belangrik om regsadvies hieroor in te win.


TOEGANG TOT DIE REGSTELSEL - VINNIGER, MAKLIKER, MEER BEKOSTIGBAAR?

Streekshowe (voorheen slegs vir strafsake) beskik ook nou oor jurisdiksie oor 'n verskeidenheid siviele aangeleenthede. Daar is 62 Streekshowe regoor Suid - Afrika (teenoor die drie uitsluitlike Egskeidingshowe). Dit behoort dus die rolle (en wagtye om sake toe te wys) in beide die Hoë Howe sowel as in die Landdroshowe drasties te verkort. Die voorgestelde prosedures is ook eenvoudiger en kostes behoort dus goedkoper te wees as in die Hoë Hof.

Die sivielregtelike dispute wat in die Streekshowe bereg kan word, is die volgende: -
  • Familiereg-aangeleenthede insluitende egskeidings, onderhoud, aanneming en beheer en toegangsreëlings oor minderjarige kinders.
  • Dispute oor roerende bates en onroerende eiendom tussen R100 000 tot R300 000.
  • Kredietooreenkomste tussen R100 000 tot R300 000.
  • Eise teen die Padongelukkefonds tussen R100 000 tot R300 000.


IS JOU MAATSKAPPY OF BK GEDEREGISTREER? HERSTEL DIT SOU GOU MOONTLIK

Op die 16e Julie 2010 het ons vriende by Cipro by die 750,000 maatskappye en beslote korporasies op hul stelsel gederegistreer. Die amnestiedatum vir die laat indiening van jaarlikse Cipro opgawes het op 15 Julie 2010 verstryk. Indien jou maatskappy of BK ook geraak is - beteken dit dat die beskerming van die aparte entiteit nie meer van toepassing is nie. Dit hou dus potensieel risiko's in in die vorm van persoonlike aanspreeklikheid vir maatskappyskulde, probleme met die afdwinging van kontrakte en die invordering van skulde, moontlike verbeurdverklaring van maatskappybates aan die Staat en om alles te kroon - moeilikheid met SARS.

Tree nou op!
  • 1.       Wat is jou entiteit se status volgens Cipro se webwerf www.cipro.gov.za (kyk onder "Enterprise Enquiry")
  • 2.       Indien dit wel gederegistreer is
    • a.       Verkry dadelik regsadvies oor die gevolge, en
    • b.       Begin dadelik met die herinstellingsproses.


BEËINDIGING VAN SKULDHERSIENING : KREDITEURE, DEBITEURE EN SKULDBERADERS NEEM KENNIS!

Sodra 'n skuldenaar aansoek gedoen het vir skuldverligting in terme van die Nasionale Kredietwet, word alle skuldinvorderingsprosedures tydelik opgeskort. 'n Skuldberader moet dan 'n terugbetalingsplan opstel en voorlê vir aanvaarding deur skuldeisers of deur die hof.

Skuldeisers sien die gepaardgaande vertragings dikwels as 'n manier waarop skuldenare die stelsel misbruik om betaling te vertraag of selfs in geheel te omseil.

Daar is wel 'n vorm van uitkoms vir die skuldeiser. Indien die skuldenaar in gebreke bly om volgens die terugbetalingsplan te betaal, kan die skuldeiser na die verstryking van 60 besigheidsdae vanaf die oorspronklike aansoek optree. Die skuldeiser kan dan kennis gee dat die skuldverligting tot 'n einde kom. Kennis hiervan moet aan die skuldenaar, die skuldberader en aan die Nasionale Kredietreguleerder gegee word.

Die Suid Gautengse Hoë Hof het hierdie beëindigingsprosedure beperkend uitgelê. Die hof bepaal dat so 'n kennisgewing van beëindiging nie gemaak kan word as die skuldberader die aangeleentheid reeds na die Landdroshof verwys het nie.

Hierdie beperking is van toepassing selfs al het die skuldenaar meermale nie sy betalings gemaak nie. Gevolglik blyk die gebruik om skuldberading te beëindig, ongeag of dit reeds na die Landdroshof verwys is, onregmatig te wees, indien dit inderdaad reeds verwys is. (Daar was ook 'n onlangse uitspraak in die Oos Kaap se Hoë Hof wat die teenoorgestelde posisie ingeneem het.) Daar sal dus duidelikheid hieroor moet kom; of vanaf die Hoogste Hof van Appèl of vanaf die wetgewer. Tot dan - verkry advies indien dit op jou van toepassing is.

Die verwysing na die Landdroshof word eers afgehandel wanneer die verwysing behoorlik op die skuldeiser beteken is; die skuldhersieningsproses is dan behoorlik voor die hof en die proses moet dan in die spesifieke hof geskied.

Skuldenare en skuldberaders - maak seker dat die verwysing na die Landdroshof in hierdie 60 dae periode op die skuldeiser gedien word. In hierdie betrokke geval is die verwysing na die Landdroshof eers op die skuldeiser gedien nadat die skuldeiser reeds kennis gegee het van die beëindiging van die skuldhersiening. Die beëindiging was dus geldig - die skuldenaar het sy beskerming verloor en die skuldeiser kon voortgaan met sy invordering.

Skuldeisers - waar geen verwysingskennisgewing op jou gedien word nie, gee jy by die verstryking van die 60 dae periode onmiddellik kennis van beëindiging - anders moet jy aanvaar dat daar verdere vertragings met die afhandeling van die proses gaan wees.



ONTSLAG VIR DIEFSTAL: WANNEER SAL DIT GEREGVERDIG WEES?

Wanneer sal jy 'n oneerlike werknemer summier kan ontslaan? Ons reg aanvaar dat die vertroue wat 'n werkgewer in 'n werknemer het, 'n kernelement van die diensverhouding is. Enige verbreking deur oneerlike optrede van hierdie vertrouensverhouding, stel die voortgesette werksverhouding in wesentlike gevaar.

Die Arbeidshof bevind dan ook in 'n onlangse uitspraak dat oortredings soos bedrog of diefstal die vertrouensverhouding tussen werkgewer en werknemer so erg skaad, dat die diensverhouding waarskynlik ook tot 'n einde sal kom.

Daar is 'n hele rits sake wat aantoon dat die waarde van die gesteelde items, nie relevant behoort te wees by die beoordeling of die dief die trekpas moet kry, al dan nie. Die Arbeidsappèlhof het nou in twee afsonderlike uitsprake die toepassing van hierdie beginsel in twyfel gebring.

In 2007 het die Arbeidsappèlhof die ontslag vir diefstal ter syde laat stel; in 2008 is 'n ontslag onder dieselfde omstandighede weer goedgekeur en bekragtig.

Totdat daar duidelikheid hieroor is, is dit gerade om alle relevante faktore in ag te neem, soos : -
  • Die waarde van die gesteelde items
  • Die omstandighede rondom die oortreding
  • Operasionele vereistes en beleid rondom die eerlikheid en geloofwaardigheid van personeel
  • Formele personeelbeleid en personeelkodes wat in plek is
  • Versagtende omstandighede (dienstermyn, dissiplinêre rekord, berou, persoonlike omstandighede ensovoorts)
  • Enige ander faktore wat relevant mag wees by die beoordeling van ontslag as die gepaste en redelike straf onder die spesifieke omstandighede.
Dit is belangrik om daarop te let dat die werknemer se oneerlikheid - inderwaarheid moes aanleiding gee tot 'n werklike verbreking van die vertrouensverhouding - dit moet ook uitdruklik so bevind en bevestig word. Die Hoogste Hof van Appèl het gevolglik die summiere ontslag van 'n oneerlike werknemer ter syde gestel, waar dit nie aangetoon kon word dat die gewraakte optrede inderdaad gelei het tot die vernietiging van die vertrouensverhouding tussen die partye nie.

Ter opsomming: selfs 'n geringe diefstal of geringe oneerlike daad sal in gepaste gevalle ontslag regverdig; dit sal egter nie in alle gevalle voldoende wees nie.

Verkry advies en leiding van 'n arbeidskonsultant of regsverteenwoordiger. Maak seker dat jou personeelbeleid opgedateer is; dat dit duidelik is en dat dit behoorlik aan alle personeellede gekommunikeer is. Maak dit ook duidelik aan personeel dat enige vorm van oneerlikheid, ongeag die graad daarvan, aanleiding sal gee tot summiere ontslag en die beëindiging van die diensverhouding. Jy sal steeds moet kan aantoon dat die vertrouensverhouding deur die oneerlike optrede van die werknemer werklik onherstelbaar geskaad is.



SEPTEMBER SE WEBWERF : GROEN IN WERK EN IN SPEL (EN 'N SALIGE WURM!)

"Greenvalues + Intelligence = Eco-Logical"

Jy kan baie leer oor die groen leefwyse en hoe om in Suid-Afrika ekologies sensitief te lewe. Besoek gerus die gids "Eco-Logical Living Guide" te vinde by http://eco-logicalliving.com. Onderwerpe en artikels sluit in -
  • Verbruikerskrag
  • Eco Office
  • Ekotoerisme
  • Energie
  • Tuinbou
  • Groen geboue
  • Natuurlike gesondheid / gesonde lewenswyses
  • Herwinning en afval
  • Water

    Besoek gerus ook die Enviropaedia (te www.enviropaedia.com) "an A-Z Environmental Encyclopaedia and Directory of all environmentally related organisations".
(NS Wat het van jou Wêreldbeker Vuvuzela geword? Kry dit in die hande en probeer om 'n wurm te paai oftewete "worm-charming"! Sien hoe op Going Green in Africa se "Quirky Stuff" webwerf te www.goinggreen.co.za/quirky-stuff.html).


Lente is hier - geniet dit!

July 2010

"BABY BOOMERS" 65 SOON: AVOID AGE DISCRIMINATION!

"Will you still need me
Will you still feed me
When I'm sixty four five?" (With apologies to the Beatles)

With the first wave of Baby Boomers turning 65 next year, employers and their employees need to understand the rules relating to compulsory retirement age. In a nutshell, forcing someone to retire at 65 could - unless our labour laws are strictly complied with - amount to automatically unfair discrimination on the grounds of age. 

And businesses will pay dearly for getting it wrong. For example the Labour Court recently ordered an employer to pay maximum compensation (a full 2 years' remuneration, with punitive costs) to an employee who, having been employed at the age of 63, was forcibly retired at 65. 

In this particular instance, the employer claimed to have had a standard retirement policy in force, but couldn't prove it. All employers should, to avoid any possible doubt, follow these principles:-
  • Formulate a properly drawn and recorded retirement policy 

  • Stipulate a compulsory retirement age upfront in all new employment contracts

  • If your existing employment contracts don't stipulate a retirement age, negotiate one now - today. Note that you cannot unilaterally impose a new term like this on employees; it must be negotiated.
The stakes are high here - take advice in doubt. 

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Cosme v Polisak (Pty) Ltd (JS 600/07) [2010] ZALC 12 is on the Saflii website.



LUXURY AND SECOND HOMES: NO PROTECTION FROM SALE IN EXECUTION

Good news for creditors comes from a recent High Court case in which a debtor failed to have a sale in execution of one of his two houses reversed on the basis of his constitutional right to adequate housing. 

The warrant of execution had been issued by a court official without "judicial oversight", which, per a Constitutional Court decision in 2004, is necessary whenever a debtor is being deprived of his/her only access to "adequate housing". The court itself - not a court official - must then consider whether such deprivation is justifiable in the particular circumstances, putting at risk the creditor's chances of recovery.

However the Court in this case upheld the execution sale, making it clear that "luxury" or "holiday" homes would not enjoy this constitutional protection. The residence in question was a second house occupied not by the debtor himself (he resided in his other house), but by other occupants, and his creditor was therefore free to proceed as he did. 

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Mkhize v Umvoti Municipality and Others (8701/06) [2010] ZAKZPHC discusses at length the application of Jaftha and subsequent decisions to the question of when a warrant of execution against immovable property may be issued by a Clerk of Court, and is available on the Saflii website.



VITAL EVIDENCE ABOUT TO BE DESTROYED? ACT IMMEDIATELY!

What do you do if you suspect that someone you are suing (or are about to sue) is on the verge of hiding or destroying vital evidence in his/her possession?

Act immediately - our law has a remedy for you in the form of an "Anton Piller" order, whereby the Sheriff of the Court is authorized to search for, and seize into safekeeping, the relevant evidence.

But this is a drastic and draconian remedy. No advance notice is given to the other party, who is accordingly liable to suffer an unannounced and substantial invasion of privacy. Exactly that happened in a recent High Court case involving a search in the other party's home, as well as at her office.

Bearing in mind our constitutional right to privacy, whilst the remedy itself is not unconstitutional, the courts require that very strict guidelines apply to its use. Thus, held the Court, the "sole purpose" of an Anton Piller is the "preservation of vitally needed evidence for use in an already identified claim" - for which reason the evidence to be seized must be both clearly specified and "centrally relevant" to the claim.

Finding that in this particular case the order was too widely framed and thus amounted to "an impermissible fishing expedition", the Court discharged the order with costs, refusing the applicant's request that it rather be "trimmed down" to a more reasonable ambit. If it's too wide - if it "materially" exceeds what the law permits - it has been "unlawfully obtained", and is invalid.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Mathias International Ltd and Another v Baillache and Others (23347/09) [2010] ZAWCHC 68 is on the Saflii website.



DANGEROUS ROADS, DANGEROUS LAWS

What happens if you are seriously injured or killed in one of South Africa's many traffic accidents? How do you and/or your dependents continue to survive financially?

Under the old Road Accident Fund Act, if the other party was at fault, you could claim against the Fund for your full (i.e. actual) losses. The controversial amendment to the Act - in force since 2008 and recently declared by the High Court to be constitutional and valid - has changed all that.

The Court's decision is being appealed, but in the interim you and your family must live with the following: -
  1. Claims for loss of income or support are limited to R 178 642 p.a. (R14.886 p.m.), 

  2. Your claims for pain and suffering, disfigurement etc, have been greatly restricted,

  3. Your hospital and medical expenses are limited to provincial hospital rates,

  4. If you have shortfalls after claiming as above, you are stuck with them - there is no claim against the other driver or vehicle owner.
If R14.900 isn't enough to cover your family's monthly living expenses, you need to urgently think about how you and/or your dependents will be able to make up the shortfall. Consider personal accident, disability or income replacement insurance for the balance. And if you want medical care at private level, check that your medical aid will cover it!

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Law Society of South Africa and Others v Minister of Transport and Another (10654/09) [2010] ZAGPPHC 26 is on the Saflii website.

The amended Act is available on the Fund's website. 



CO-OWNERS COME TO BLOWS? COURTS TO THE RESCUE

Co-ownership of immovable property can be problematic, particularly if and when you and your co-owner/s decide for whatever reason to part company, but cannot then agree on how to divide the property.

Fortunately our courts will come to your rescue with a wide discretion to make any order that is "fair and equitable in the circumstances". Some of the orders a court might make include: -
  • Subdivision of the property if feasible, or

  • Transfer to one of the co-owners against payment of a specified price to the other/s, or

  • Sale of the property and division of the net proceeds between the co-owners. For example, the High Court recently ordered a property to be put up for sale firstly by public auction with a reserve price, and then - if the auction produces no sale - via an estate agent.
The court can also make any "equitable adjustment" between co-owners where one of them has had occupation or a financial benefit from the property, or borne any expenses relating to it (e.g. rates and taxes). 

Note that where owners have agreed not to terminate the co-ownership for a period of time, this will be enforced. But any agreement to co-own in perpetuity is invalid, as no one can be forced to remain a joint owner indefinitely against their will.

Before opting for co-ownership of anything, take legal advice. Ideally enter into a properly-drawn agreement upfront to avoid any possible disputes, both during the co-ownership and on its termination.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The actio communi dividundo is fully discussed in the judgment in Matadin v Parma and Others (4638/2009) [2010] ZAKZPHC 18 on the Saflii website.



VEXATIOUS LITIGANTS: RED CARD THEM! 

Recent media reports have suggested that property developers in particular can use "new vexatious legislation" to take action against anyone who causes a developer financial loss by groundlessly objecting to a development scheme.

In reality there is no such new legislation around, and whether or not a developer will have a claim against a vexatious objector will depend on the normal rules relating to claims for damages - no changes there.

Of interest however (to everyone - not just developers) is the totally separate concept of outlawing "vexatious litigation". Between the common law and a 1956 piece of legislation aptly titled the "Vexatious Proceedings Act", you can indeed protect yourself from the proverbial "vexatious litigant". In summary, courts have the power to prevent abuse of their process both in individual proceedings and generally: -
  • In specific cases, a court can quash vexatious proceedings summarily, and

  • More generally, a court may require that its leave be obtained before any new legal action is instituted by any person who has in the past "persistently and without reasonable ground instituted legal proceedings" against anyone else.
The courts are generally slow to grant such orders, but if you are being unfairly harassed via a barrage of groundless litigation, this may be your escape route.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: See a full discussion on the Vexatious Proceedings Act (Act 3 of 1956) and the applicable common law, in Chapter 46 of "Herbstein and Van Winsen: The Civil Practice of the High Courts & Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa" by AC Cilliers, C Loots and HC Nel, 5th ed., preview available online at Google Books

See also the judgment in Absa Bank Limited v Dlamini (41460/07) [2007] ZAGPHC 241; [2008] 2 All SA 405 (T); 2008 (2) SA 262 (T) on the Saflii website.



THE JULY WEBSITE: PLANNING FOR SUCCESS WITH VISUAL AIDS & THINKING GUIDES 

"Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail"; and that applies as much in our personal lives as it does to our businesses.

Clear, creative thinking being the well-spring of all successful planning, you should maximize it with visual aids such as the interactive analytical tools and "thinking guides" - flow charts, diagrams and conceptual maps - on the exploratree website atwww.exploratree.org.uk. Find what you need under these headings: -
  • Map Your Ideas
  • Solve Problems
  • Explore
  • Analyse
  • Different Perspectives
It's all free, and don't be put off by the fact that these tools were developed for schools and students - they are an excellent resource for high-level planning and problem solving of all types. 

If you're unsure where to start, try the 'Futures Wheel' template ("Think through the consequences and impacts of an event. What are the knock on effects?").


ENJOY JULY! (And if the winter cold is biting, take comfort in the old Norwegian adage: "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes")


Note: Copyright in this publication and its contents vests in LawDotNews(law.news)

 

June 2010


LEVY AND RENTAL DEFAULTERS: THEY CAN RUN, BUT HIDING JUST GOT HARDER!

"Close your eyes -
Landlord knocking
On the back door."

(Jack Kerouac; Northport Haiku)


Two recent High Court decisions hold good news for bodies corporate and landlords - defaulting sectional title owners and tenants cannot hide behind the debtor protection provisions of the National Credit Act.

In summary, the NCA debt counselling process, with its inherent delays and risks for the creditor, does not afford protection to: -

  • Sectional title owners in respect of arrear levies
  • Tenants of leased properties - in respect not only of arrear rentals, but also associated utility charges (rates, electricity, water, sewerage etc).

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in the "levies" case Dlamini v The Body Corporate of Frenoleen (AR 611/09) [2010] ZAKZPHC 6 is on the Saflii website.

The judgment in the "utility charges" case Pareto Limited and Others v Kalnisha Sigaban t/a KS Flowers N More (A3096/09) [2010] ZAGPJHC 21 is on the Saflii website.


DRIVER DEMERIT SYSTEM ROLLING OUT COUNTRYWIDE - THE TIMETABLE

The AARTO traffic fines system is serious stuff, particularly from November when the points-based demerit side of the system commences. If you run up 13 or more demerits, your driver's licence/professional driving permit/operator card will automatically be suspended (3 months' suspension for every point over 12). And 3 suspensions will result in full cancellation.

The general payment and enforcement provisions (but at this stage minus the points system) are currently effective in the Tshwane and Johannesburg areas. Despite problems and challenges arising during these pilot phases, AARTO has now been gazetted for roll-out countrywide as follows: -

  • 1 July 2010 - Cape Town, eThekwini, Ekurhuleni and Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipalities
  • 1 November 2010 - rest of South Africa (and commencement of the points system)

Forewarned being forearmed, learn all about it now at the official AARTO website www.aartosa.co.za.

Note that there is some good news in all this - substantial discounts apply for early payment of fines. But there are also significant risks, so take advice in doubt.


NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act, no. 46 of 1998, is available at ActsOnline.

For a note on the current status of AARTO in Joburg, see the article "New traffic law soon in place" on the City of Johannesburg website.


THE BOND CLAUSE: NO DUE DATE = DISPUTE + DELAY!

If your property sale is subject to a suspensive condition (such as the buyer obtaining a bond), ensure that a specific time limit is clearly stated. Otherwise the buyer has by implication of law a "reasonable time" within which to obtain the bond - and, since you can't start looking for another buyer until the existing sale has definitely lapsed, that's a recipe for uncertainty, dispute, and costly delay.

What is or isn't a "reasonable" period of time depends, per a recent High Court decision on -

  • 1.       The "peculiar circumstances" of each case, and
  • 2.       Factors such as

"...... the contemplation of each of the parties at the time of entering into the contract",

"......... any particular difficulty or cause of delay that might or did arise, if it was reasonably foreseeable", and

"......... the commercial interests of each of the parties."

To illustrate - as a general rule 6 weeks may seem like plenty of time to get a bond, but in this particular case the seller was unable to convince the court that it was indeed enough, and lost the case.

Avoid all those grey areas - sign nothing until your attorney has vetted your sale agreement for both certainty and enforceability!

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Govender v Reddy and Another (12442/2009) [2010] ZAKZDHC 8 is on the Saflii website.

CONSTRUCTIVE DISMISSAL: WHAT IS IT? HOW DO YOU PROVE IT?

Both employers and employees need to bear in mind the principle in our labour law that protects employees from being forced into resigning.

Such a forced resignation is regarded as being "constructive dismissal" - defined as taking place when an employee terminates his or her employment contract "because the employer made continued employment intolerable for the employee."

As illustrated in a recent Labour Court case: -

  • The onus is on the employee to prove constructive dismissal
  • His/her perception of the situation must have been objectively reasonable in the circumstances
  • The resignation must be an act of "final resort when no alternatives remain"
  • A change of terms and conditions of employment will amount to constructive dismissal only if "the employee could not reasonably be expected to endure the situation", or if it goes "to the root of the employment relationship".

The employee in question headed her resignation letter "Forced Resignation", and asserted (with reasons) that: "The situation at work has become totally unbearable to the extent that I cannot tolerate continuing employment any longer". In the end however she was unable to convince the Court that, objectively speaking, the employer "had created an environment which left the applicant with no option but to resign". Her claim of constructive dismissal failed accordingly.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Van Greunen v Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market (Pty) Ltd (JS 175/07) [2010] ZALC 27 is on the Saflii website.

THE CLOSE CORPORATION, THE MEMBER WIFE, AND THE UNAUTHORISED HUSBAND

Don't deal with any close corporation without checking that whoever represents it has the authority to do so - otherwise your agreement literally won't be worth the paper it's written on.

For example, a property sale agreement was recently held by the Supreme Court of Appeal to be invalid where it had been signed, not by the sole member of the CC which owned the property, but by her husband. Because the husband hadn't been authorised in writing by his wife to conclude the sale, it was held to be null and void.

Where immovable property is involved, the authority must be in writing. But even in cases where verbal authority will suffice, play it safe and avoid dispute down the line by insisting on seeing - and keeping on file - written proof of authority.

Moreover even when your dealings are direct with a CC's member/s, you should still check for proper authorisation. The High Court recently held that a member holding a 50% interest in a CC could not institute legal action on behalf of the corporation without a members' resolution authorising him to do so. The other 50% member having died, the executor of his deceased estate now stepped into his shoes, and the surviving member could not act unilaterally.

As if that doesn't complicate matters enough, note that different rules apply to companies and trusts. Be careful; don't sign anything until your lawyer has checked it for you!

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The SCA judgment in Northview Shopping Centre (Pty) Ltd v Revelas Properties Johannesburg CC and Another (275/09) [2010] ZASCA 16 is on the Saflii website. Find comment and a summary on the GhostDigest website.

The High Court judgment in Boerboonfontein BK v La Grange NO and Another (A409/09) [2010] ZAWCHC 81 is on the Saflii website.


CLUSTER HOMES AND DEVIATING FROM THE BUILDING GUIDELINES - WHEN YOU CAN, AND WHEN YOU CAN'T

A Home Owners Association's constitution will invariably bind all its members to a set of architectural and building requirements which, in order to protect the rights of all home owners, controls aspects of the design and position of buildings and other structures within the complex.

But where deviations from such requirements are "minor", it seems that the courts may well condone them. Thus the High Court recently refused to order a complex homeowner to remove a wire mesh fence erected by him. Although the fence was not, as required, "Bekeart mesh", the Court held that: "To the untrained eye the difference will hardly be noticeable. If creepers are planted (as should be encouraged in terms of the constitution) it will be impossible to tell if it is plain wire mesh or Bekeart mesh". It seems that "noticeability" could be the key consideration here.

This practical approach however has its limits - any "absolute or peremptory" requirements must be strictly complied with. Take advice in doubt.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Kenrock Homeowners Association v Mewett (6886/07) [2010] ZAWCHC 12 is on the Saflii website.

WHAT'S IN MY MUESLI? NEW CONTROLS ON FOOD LABELLING, ADVERTISING

New Department of Health regulations will control what must (and must not) be included in labelling and advertising of all foodstuffs. The idea is to assist consumers to make fully informed, healthy food choices based on clear disclosure of nutrient content in food products.

Although most of the regulations only come into effect on 1 March 2011 - giving non-compliant food manufacturers and importers 9 months now to get their houses in order - there is one exception, namely the misleading practice of labelling contents as a "negative percentage" (such as "95% fat-free"). From 1 June 2010 disclosure must be correctly stated in the positive ("5% fat"), and that applies not only to fat content, but to other components as well (sodium, energy, cholesterol etc).

"Trans fat", with its reputation as a significant health risk, is of particular interest to consumers, but will unfortunately only be dealt with later in separate regulations. A draft of these is currently open for public comment until the end of June.


NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The Department of Health website has links to the "Regulations Relating to Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs", the related "Guidelines", and the "Draft Regulations Relating to Trans Fats in Foodstuffs".

THE JUNE WEBSITE: YOU, YOUR BUSINESS, AND YOUTUBE .........

Consider this: -

  • At long last we have uncapped broadband.
  • There are now over 2 billion YouTube video views daily.
  • YouTube South Africa has just launched (find it at www.youtube.co.za).

Put all that together and now's your big chance to boost your business with nothing more complicated than a short video or two.

How? First, read "How to Use YouTube to Drive Business" in the War Room section of Business Insider's website at http://www.businessinsider.com/youtube-business-2010-2#why-should-you-use-online-video-1. (Don't lose sight of your 3 main Goals here: "Inform, Educate and Entertain". See page 2/12).

That's mostly generalised advice, so next, search online for ideas relevant to your particular business model. There's a huge amount of free advice out there!

Don't worry about cost. It's virtually free - in the Internet Age, even the smallest business can have as big a footprint as the largest corporate!


Enjoy Your June!

 

May 2010


EIENDOMSAGENT : BESKERM JOU KOMMISSIE!


Eiendomsagente en ander in die eiendomswêreld kan gerus kennis neem van die onlangse uitspraak in die Hoë Hof waarin kommissie ter sprake was. Die agent se eis vir kommissie is hier uiteindelik op twee gronde van die hand gewys.

Die agent ("W") het 'n koper aanvanklik tydens 'n skouhuis aan die eiendom bekend gestel. Die koper was gretig om 'n aanbod te maak, maar kon nie as gevolg van a) die prys wat te hoog was, en b) die koper het op daardie stadium ander onmiddellike finansiële verpligtinge gehad.

Op 'n latere geleentheid het 'n ander agent ("D") wel 'n suksesvolle transaksie met dieselfde koper namens dieselfde verkoper gesluit. As deel van die onderhandelinge het die verkoper die prys met R500 000,00 verminder. Tweedens het die koper se ander finansiële verpligtinge intussen weggeval en die partye kon die koop beklink. Die verkoper het D se kommissie betaal, maar het geweier om die verdere eis vir kommissie van 6% deur W (die oorspronklike agent) te betaal; vandaar die litigasie wat gevolg het.

Soos gebruiklik was die eerste hekkie vir die agent om 'n mandaat van die verkoper te bewys. Sy kon nie 'n uitdruklike mandaat bewys nie en het probeer om aan die hof te bewys dat 'n stilswyende mandaat aanvaar en tot stand gekom het. Vir so 'n bevinding vereis die hof duidelike en ondubbelsinnige optrede wat aandui dat die partye inderdaad konsensus gehad het en ooreengekom het op die terme soos deur die agent beweer ("unequivocal conduct, by inference if necessary, that the parties did contract in the terms alleged").

Die hof bevind dat aangesien W nie in staat was om die terme van die mandaat te bewys nie - en meer spesifiek nie kon bewys dat die partye ooreengekom het op die kommissiekoers van 6% waarvoor sy eis nie - moes haar eis faal.

'n Agent moet ook kan bewys dat sy die effektiewe oorsaak vir die sluit van 'n spesifieke transaksie was. Die feite hier het aangedui dat die koper tydens die eerste bekendstelling belang gestel het, maar finansieel nie in staat was om 'n transaksie te kon sluit nie. Hierdie tekortkoming is wel op 'n latere stadium aangespreek en uit die weg geruim tydens verdere onderhandelinge met die tweede agent, D.

In die lig van die opvolgende optrede en verdere onderhandelinge kon W nie bewys dat die oorspronklike bekendstelling die deurslaggewende faktor was vir die uiteindelike sluit van die transaksie nie.

Verkopers: Let op hoe vinnig mens die risiko kan loop om twee stelle kommissies te moet betaal. Ons howe het al dikwels dubbele kommissie toegeken - aan die oorspronklike agent in terme van 'n bewese mandaat en dan aan 'n latere agent wat die transaksie beklink het.

In hierdie spesifieke geval was dit slegs omdat die eerste mandaat nie behoorlik omskryf was nie en die aanvanklike finansiële posisie van die koper nie 'n transaksie moontlik gemaak het nie, dat bevind is dat die eerste voorstelling nie die effektiewe oorsaak van die kooptransaksie was nie.

Agente: Maak seker dat: -

  • 1.       'n Volledige, duidelike en akkurate mandaat vanaf die verkoper op skrif gestel word. Hierin moet die terme van die mandaat, insluitende die ooreengekome kommissiekoers, uiteengesit word.
  • 2.       Waar jy wel 'n koper aan die eiendom bekend stel, wat op daardie stadium nie 'n aanbod kan of wil maak nie, moet dit nie daar los as jy rede het om te glo dat 'n transaksie later op ander terme tussen dieselfde partye gesluit kan word nie. Volg dit gereeld met die partye op, veral wanneer hulle posisie in die toekoms kan verander. Hou ook behoorlik rekord van jou verdere werk, insette en onderhandelinge rondom die eiendom. Indien daar wel 'n transaksie volg, sal jy dit benodig indien jy wil slaag met jou eis vir kommissie.



WÊRELDBEKERKOORS - SIEKVERLOF

Werkgewers gaan waarskynlik skepties wees, indien personeel skielik begin siekverlof neem, op die dae waar daar groot wedstryde tydens die Wêreldbeker 2010 gaan plaasvind.

Dit is daarom goed om net weer die basiese aspekte van siekverlof af te stof.

Ter opsomming:-

  • 1.       Die werkgewer kan eers aandring daarop dat die werknemer 'n mediese sertifikaat voorlê, indien hy langer as twee dae op siekverlof is (dws drie aaneenlopende dae of langer) of, indien die werknemer siekverlof op meer as twee geleenthede binne 'n agt weke periode neem.
  • 2.       Slegs oorspronklike, onveranderde mediese sertifikate behoort aanvaar te word. Let ook op na die basiese inligting daarop, soos die naam, adres en kwalifikasies van die mediese praktisyn, die naam van die pasiënt, die datum en tyd van die ondersoek, die beskrywing van die mediese toestand (onderhewig aan die vertroulikheid tussen dokter en pasiënt); die aanbevole termyn van afwesigheid; of daar 'n absolute verbod op werk is en of die werknemer wel ligter takies kan verrig; die volle bevestiging en handtekening van die dokter behoort ook op die sertifikaat te verskyn en moet duidelik wees.
  • 3.       Werkgewers kan krities wees en kan enige mediese sertifikaat wat agterdog wek, bevraagteken. In gevalle van afwesighede onder twyfelagtige omstandighede (soos byvoorbeeld personeel wat inbel met migraine wanneer Suid Afrika speel) behoort dit opgevolg te word.
  • 4.       In geval van growwe misbruik moet u dissiplinêre stappe neem en kan u selfs oorweeg om strafregtelike klagtes van bedrog in te dien.

Indien jy 'n werknemer is wat 'n wedstryd tydens werksure wil volg, sonder om verlof in te sit, stel ons voor jy praat direk met jou werkgewer hieroor. Miskien kan daar 'n reëling gemaak word oor aanpasbare tye. Jy is nie geregtig op enige vergunnings nie, maar sinvolle personeelbeleide en moraalkwessies sal die meeste werkgewers noop om wel te kyk hoe enige billike versoeke hanteer kan word.


LEDE VAN BK IN DISPUUT? KIES JOU WAPENS VERSIGTIG!

Die besigheid van die beslote korporasie waarvan jy 'n lid is, word lamgelê as gevolg van 'n deurlopende dispuut tussen die geregistreerde lede. Hoe nou gemaak?

Die voor die handliggende oplossing is dat die een lid die ander lid se ledebelang moet uitkoop en dan alleen aangaan met die besigheid. Indien die partye egter nie kan ooreenkom op 'n billike prys vir die ledebelang nie, moet mens na ander opsies kyk om finaliteit aan die situasie te bring.

In 'n saak wat onlangs in die Hoogste Hof van Appèl gedien het, het twee van die moontlike oplossings wat tot lede se beskikking is, onder die vergrootglas gekom. Die betrokke beslote korporasie het sake bedryf as 'n winsgewende kroeg. Een van die lede was die aktiewe lid wat die sake bestuur het (die ander is by tye as die "slapende vennoot" beskryf, hoewel dit weldra sou blyk dat hy 'n baie wakker strategie gevolg het).

Beskuldigings van oneerlikheid en wanbestuur het oor en weer gevlieg. Die lede se werksverhouding is sodanig vertroebel en die vertrouensbreuk was so ernstig dat die partye nie meer in staat was om gesamentlik sake te bedryf nie. Hoewel die feite wat aanleiding gee tot so 'n situasie, van geval tot geval verskil, gebeur dit dikwels dat so 'n situasie hom in die handelsverkeer voordoen. Vir lede van beslote korporasies en hul adviseurs is dit gevolglik belangrik om op te let na die beginsels hier ter sprake.

Die hof is hier gevra om een van twee wedersyds uitsluitende bevele toe te staan: -

  • Die "slapende" lid het gevra dat 'n likwidasiebevel teen die beslote korporasie toegestaan word. Die besigheid is solvent en hoogs winsgewend, maar as gevolg van wanbestuur en die vertrouensbreuk tussen die lede, voer hy aan dat dit "reg en billik" sou wees dat 'n likwidateur aangestel word om die bewerings van ongerymdhede en die ware finansiële toestand van die korporasie deeglik te ondersoek, bekend te maak en dienooreenkomstig op te tree.
  • Die "besturende" lid daarenteen wou om verstaanbare redes weer graag hê dat die besigheid as 'n lopende saak voortgaan. Hy vra dus 'n hofbevel wat die "slapende" lid sou verplig om sy ledebelang aan hom oor te dra; en tender wel om betaling van R400 000,00 (of sodanige ander bedrag wat die hof billik bevind) aan die "slapende" lid vir die oordrag van hierdie ledebelang te maak.

Die Appèlhof bevestig dat die hof hier sy diskresie moet uitoefen en bekragtig dan die likwidasiebevel wat voorheen reeds deur die Hoë Hof toegestaan is. Die ander moontlikheid, waar die besturende lid gevra het vir 'n gedwonge uitkoop van die ledebelang, word van die hand gewys omdat voldoende inligting en syfers nie voor die hof geplaas is om dit in staat te stel om 'n billike en ingeligte finansiële toedeling tussen die lede te maak nie.

'n Dispuut tussen lede van 'n beslote korporasie kan ernstige gevolge vir die betrokke partye inhou. Verkry dus advies indien julle dit nie gou genoeg onderling kan oplos nie. Indien jou mede-lid die likwidasieroete wil volg, sorg dat jy 'n behoorlike gemotiveerde waardasie en volledige finansiële inligting voor die hof plaas om hierdie drastiese opsie teen te werk.



WERKGEWERS: TEEN 31 MEI MOET U REKONSILIASIES INGEDIEN WEES!

Die afsnydatum vir die indiening van SARS se nuwe EMP501 "Werkgewer Rekonsiliasie Verklaring" vir die periode 1 Maart 2009 tot 28 Februarie 2010 is vasgestel vir 31 Mei 2010.

SARS waarsku dat enige laat indienings aan swaar boetes onderhewig sal wees. Jou werknemers word ook in die proses benadeel aangesien hul belastingaanslae eers uitgereik kan word wanneer die EMP501 by SARS ingedien is.

Wanneer jy dit ingedien het, sorg dat jou afskrif altyd byderhand is, tesame met jou bewys dat die EMP501 wel betyds ingedien is.



WIE KAN 'N TESTAMENT MAAK? EN WIE IS BY SY VOLLE VERSTAND?

Dit is altyd goed om 'n behoorlik opgestelde testament te hê. Net so belangrik is dit om jou testament gereeld te hersien.

Die bevoegdheid om 'n wettige testament te kan maak, is slegs onderhewig aan twee vereistes:

  • 1.       Jy moet ouer as sestien (16) wees, en
  • 2.       Jy moet in staat wees om die bepalings en gevolge van jou testament te verstaan {minder akkuraat word dikwels vereis dat jy by jou volle en gesonde verstand ("of sound mind") moet wees}.

Die ondersoek na die testateur se geestesgesondheid kom dikwels later ter sprake wanneer 'n ontevrede en/of onterfde erfgenaam die hof nader om die testament ongeldig te laat verklaar.

Die elemente waarna die hof kyk om te bepaal of die testateur by sy volle en gesonde verstand was toe die testament gemaak is, is onlangs kortliks weer as volg in die Hoë Hof uiteengesit: -

  • 1.       Die testateur moet weet wat die aard en omvang van sy besittings behels.
  • 2.       Die testateur moet die eise wat sy verwante (en ander mense en instansies) op sy guns en bates mag hê, kan insien en verstaan.
  • 3.       Die testateur moet in staat wees om sy bedoelings en besluite te kan formuleer. Hy moet dus na oorweging van enige aansprake, self kan besluit of hy bemakings aan persone gaan maak of hul gaan uitsluit van enige bates in sy boedel, soos wat die geval mag wees.

Onthou, in Suid Afrika het 'n testateur in beginsel volkome testeervryheid en kan hy (of sy) sy boedel bemaak aan wie of wat hy wil.

Indien daar egter 'n moontlikheid van onmin of besware teen 'n testament gaan wees, dra dit so aan jou regsverteenwoordiger oor, wanneer jy instruksies gee vir jou testament om opgestel te word. Voorkomende stappe kan dan uit die staanspoor geneem word om die integriteit van jou testament en jou wilsbeskikking daarin te beskerm.

In hierdie spesifieke geval was die testateur reeds ernstig siek met die opstel van die testament; hy het dus voorspel dat die geldigheid van sy testament waarskynlik getoets sou word. Sy prokureur het gevolglik gereël dat die testateur sy testament in die teenwoordigheid van 'n mediese dokter onderteken. Die dokter kon dus eerstehands en deurslaggewend getuig oor die geestestoestand en verstandelike vermoëens van die testateur tydens die ondertekening van die testament.

Onthou, uit die staanspoor word aanvaar word dat 'n behoorlik getekende testament regsgeldig gemaak is. Indien jy dus iemand se testament wil aanveg op die basis dat die testateur nie meer in staat was om 'n geldige testament te maak nie, rus die onus op jou om die teendeel te bewys.



VERTRAGINGS MET UITSETTINGS? EIS VAN DIE PLAASLIKE OWERHEID

'n Grondeienaar het dikwels met vertragings te make wanneer hy aansoek doen vir die uitsetting van onwettige okkupeerders. Dikwels word finale uitsetting teruggehou, totdat die hof tevrede is dat daar wel alternatiewe huisvesting beskikbaar gemaak is vir okkupeerders wat geen ander heenkome het nie.

Die Hoë Hof het onlangs ingegryp en 'n mate van verligting aan die grondeienaar verleen. Die hof bevind dat die plaaslike owerheid onder grondwetlike verpligting is om te beplan en te begroot vir die voorsiening van alternatiewe huisvesting vir sodanige okkupeerders. Die betrokke plaaslike owerheid se beleid was om slegs voorsiening te maak vir hulp aan okkupeerders van staatseiendom; die hof bevind dat hierdie beleid ongrondwetlik teenoor die besetters sowel as teenoor privaat grondeienaars is.

Die hof beveel die plaaslike owerheid om skadevergoeding aan die private grondeienaar te betaal en wel die billike en redelike maandelikse huur wat die voorafgaande sewe maande nie gevorder kon word nie. Die hof staan die uitsettingsbevel toe, maar hou die inwerkingtreding daarvan vir twee maande terug.

Die hof beveel die munisipaliteit om in hierdie twee maande alternatiewe huisvesting vir die okkupeerders te vind of om fondse beskikbaar te maak sodat hul ander huisvesting kan huur. Dit klink na 'n oorwinning vir die privaat grondeienaar. Waar die uiteindelike finansiering van die plaaslike owerhede se behuisingskemas vandaan gaan kom, is natuurlik in geheel 'n ander storie.


DIE MEI WEBWERF: INTERNET BEDROG EN E-POSSE

Al hoe meer mense word gevang met bedrog oor die internet. Die lys van "phishing" slagoffers raak daagliks langer. Die e-posse verander gedurig van gedaante en lyk ongelukkig al hoe meer na 'n geloofwaardige ware jakob. Dit word ook opgestel en ontwerp om jou te oortuig dat dit dringend is en dat jy dadelik moet optree.

Wees versigtig. Moenie aan die aas knibbel nie. Voor jy jou oë uitvee is jou bankrekening elektronies leeggetap. Moet ook nie te veel (of enige) simpatie van jou bank verwag nie.

Ons dink almal ons sal nie daarvoor val nie. Totdat jy per e-pos kennis kry dat jou bankrekening gevries gaan word indien jy dit nie dadelik weer aktiveer nie; of inligting vinnig bevestig nie; of nie reageer op enige gesofistikeerde variasie hierop nie.

Wees bedag en beskerm jouself. Lig jouself en persone rondom jou (insluitende personeel en verteenwoordigers) behoorlik in. Lees die artikel "Internet Banking Fraud" van ons bankiers op SABRIC (South African Banking Risk Information Centre) se webwerf te www.sabric.co.za/?pg=Internet+Banking+Fraud.


Ons wens u 'n suksesvolle Mei 2010 toe.


April 2010


DIRECTORS, RECKLESS TRADING: "HONEST BELIEF" IRRELEVANT

One of the nightmare scenarios facing any company director is being held personally liable for the debts of his/her company.

Commonly, a creditor of the company (or the liquidator thereof acting for the general body of creditors) claims from the director personally on the basis that he/she was party to "fraudulent or reckless" trading.

A recent High Court case, in which a director was held personally liable for a substantial (over R3m) company debt, illustrates the difference between fraud and recklessness -

In the case of fraudulent trading, "a director's honest belief as to the prospects of payment when due" is critical, i.e. the question is "what did the director actually believe at the time?"
But in the case of reckless trading, the test is objective, and the director's "honest belief" - i.e. genuine belief that creditors will be paid - will be irrelevant "if a reasonable person of business in the same circumstances would not have held that belief."
Ordinary negligence or carelessness does not expose a director to personal liability; recklessness (which includes "gross negligence") goes beyond that. But be careful here - if, for example, a company "continues to carry on business as to incur debts when, in the opinion of reasonable businessmen, standing in the shoes of the directors, there would be no reasonable prospect of the creditors receiving payment when due, it will in general be a proper inference that the business is being carried on recklessly."

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Bid Financial Services (Pty) Ltd v Forster (A92/2009) [2010] ZAWCHC 24 is on the Saflii website.

SELLERS AND CLEARANCE CERTIFICATES - NOTE THE 2-YEAR LIMIT ON RATES!

A sold property cannot be transferred to the buyer thereof unless and until the local authority issues a "clearance certificate", being its confirmation that it has received full payment of all amounts due in connection with the property in respect of "municipal service fees, surcharges on fees, property rates and other municipal taxes, levies and duties during the two years preceding the date of application for the certificate."

The danger here for sellers of course is that these debts could include substantial service fees, run up by tenants without your knowledge. If the outstanding amounts relate to the property and fall within the 2-year period, you have no option but to pay them in full, regardless of whose debts they actually are.

But at least this danger is limited to the 2 years. In a recent case before the Supreme Court of Appeal, a municipality had attempted to force the seller to pay older debts by allocating all payments to the oldest debts, and then refusing to advise the seller how much of the debt fell within the 2-year period.

However, ruled the Court, a municipality cannot do that. It is required to: -

1. Advise you what part of the debt relates to the 2-year period, and

2. Issue a clearance certificate to you against payment of no more than that part of the debt.

(Municipalities - tailor your credit control and debt collection policies to avoid debts ageing to anywhere near the 2-year limit. Collecting older debts is not going to be easy without the leverage provided by a seller's reliance on your clearance certificate before transfer can be effected!)

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in City of Cape Town v Real People Housing (77/09) [2009] ZASCA 159 is on the Saflii website.

SUPPLIERS: GOODS SUPPLIED FROM 24 APRIL SUBJECT TO DAMAGES RISK

Consumers as well as suppliers of goods and services need to bear in mind that, although most of the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act will only come into force on 24 October 2010, certain "transitional provisions" apply from 24 April: -

Although the Act will generally not apply to "pre-existing transactions and agreements", some exceptions will apply to relationships still in effect on 24 October; and
The liability of all suppliers of goods to pay damages caused by defective goods "applies to any goods that were first supplied to a consumer on or after" 24 April. The danger here (for everyone in the supply chain) is that liability is "strict" or "no fault", i.e. you are liable even if you have not been in any way negligent.
Consumers: remember that your rights under the new Act only become enforceable in October.

Suppliers: your risk starts now. Manage it: -

1. Take legal advice on the extent of your exposure, have all your supply contracts checked, and beef up your quality control procedures

2. Check whether your "product liability" insurance will cover you for claims in terms of the Act.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: There's a bit more detail in our December 2009 "early warning" article "Businesses Beware! New Consumer Protections Will Raise Risk Factors".

The Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 is available on the Acts Online website. Section 61 deals with "Liability for damage caused by goods". Schedule 2 covers "Transitional Provisions" - Item 1 "Incremental effect of Act" and Item 3 "Application of Act to pre-existing transactions and agreements" (Item 3(4) deals with section 61).

BANKS: DANGER IN FINANCING PROPERTY COMPANY SHARE SALES

Companies are prohibited - subject to a few limited exceptions - from financing the purchase of their own shares.

Any financial institution providing loan finance for such a prohibited transaction runs the risk of having the loan declared void and unenforceable (and any supporting mortgage bond invalidated).

That's exactly what happened in a recent High Court case, where the purchasers of a farm-owning company's shares (and the partnership which operated the farm) obtained a bank loan for the purpose. Although a loan obtained with the intention of financing a prohibited deal "is not void where the third party is unaware of such intention", in this case the bank had intimate knowledge of how the transaction had been structured by the parties. Its loan - and bond - were accordingly declared invalid.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Kernsig 17 (Edms) Bpk v ABSA Bank (A578/08) [2010] ZAWCHC 9 is on the Saflii website. Section 38 of the Companies Act 61 of 1973 - applicable until the new Act comes into effect (supposedly later this year) - can be found on the Acts Online website.

STATE TENDERS - YOUR RIGHTS

In setting aside the tender process followed by SAA in awarding a contract for ground handling services, the High Court recently examined the obligations in this regard of any "organ of state exercising a power in terms of the Constitution or performing a public function in terms of legislation".

In essence, there is an "ever flexible duty to act fairly" - fairness in this instance entailing "a consideration not only of the interests of the excluded tenderer ... but also the interests of all the constituents who are affected thereby" (in this case the State, taxpayers and the flying public).

The Court commented that "tender procedures are vital to the very essence of effective government procurement policies. These procedures may well be described as intended to ensure that government, and therefore SAA, before it procures goods or services, or enters into contracts for the procurement thereof, has ensured that a proper evaluation is done of what is available, at what price and whether or not that which is procured serves the purposes for which it is intended. It has as its duty the obligation to ensure that SAA gets the best price and value for that which it pays."

Finding that one of the tenderers had been denied both sufficient time and sufficient information to enable it to formulate a bid, it set aside the whole tender process as "a sham".

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Menzies Aviation South Africa (Pty) Limited v South African Airways (Pty) Ltd and Others (08/22988) [2009] ZAGPJHC 65 is on the Saflii website.

THE APRIL WEBSITE: FREE MARKETING MAGIC WITH "STREET VIEW"

Google Earth has serious marketing potential for any business needing exposure to potential customers - estate agents, tourist services, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, wineries, garages etc, etc.

Get going with these steps: -

1. Download Google Earth free from http://earth.google.co.uk/intl/en_uk/download-earth.html (or click "Check for Updates Online" under the Help menu to ensure you have the latest version)

2. Learn all about it with the "User Guide" under Help. You have a treasure trove to explore (one example - see what your house/office/favourite beach looked like 10 years ago, by clicking "Historical Imagery" under the View menu)

3. Register your free business listing by clicking "Add/Edit a Business Listing" under Help. That takes you to Google Maps - make the best use of it with their Help page at http://maps.google.com/support/bin/static.py?page=guide.cs&guide=21029&topic=21032, and with the Biz Community article at http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/16/44549.html. The more creative you are with adding photos, videos, website links, customer/client reviews, etc, the more response you will get! (Note that your business will only be "marked" in Google Earth if you fall into one of the business categories listed in the Layers box under "More", "Place Categories".)

4. Encourage happy customers to add their photos with Panoramio - full directions on their website at http://www.panoramio.com/help/adding_photos.

And Now For Something Completely Different! Get ready for "Street View" - zoom in on 360° photos of individual streets, with houses, offices and tourist attractions. Europe, North America and Australia already have it; we launch soon!

Try it out in the meantime -

In the "Layers" box (bottom left of your Google Earth screen) make sure that the "Street View" box is ticked
In the "Search/Fly To" box (top left of the screen) enter the street address of cousin Joe in Nashville or Auntie Agatha's Pancake Palace in Portsmouth - with luck, you will very shortly be looking at their front door (is that Charlie the cat in the window?).
Get ready - when Street View launches here, be the first to use it for your marketing! (To see how Aussie estate agents are doing it, go to Marketing Magazine's website at http://www.marketingmag.com.au/news/view/domain-com-au-leads-the-charge-for-real-estate-companies-using-google-maps-street-view-532).

Enjoy April!

March 2010


DON'T LOSE YOUR HOUSE SALE ON A TECHNICALITY!


Another warning to have your property sale agreement checked by your lawyer before you sign anything comes from a recent Supreme Court of Appeal case. The sale in question was held to be invalid for want of certainty as to when the purchase price had to be paid.

The formal legal requirements of a property sale contract were examined by the Court, and in summary are as follows:-

  • 1.       "The whole contract ─ or at least all the material terms ─ must be reduced to writing" (and signed by the parties), and
  • 2.       "The Court must be able to ascertain with reasonable certainty the terms of the contract", and
  • 3.       All material terms must be finally agreed upon - no material term can be "left open for further negotiations".

    (Bear in mind that the above are the basics only - a properly-drawn sale agreement will also cover a multitude of other important issues!)

Where grey areas normally come into play is in deciding what is - and what isn't - a "material" term in each particular set of circumstances. Clearly, the parties and the property must be clearly identified. And the Courts have held that the "manner of payment" of the purchase price "is ordinarily a material term", whilst our common law provides that - unless the parties agree otherwise - payment must be made in cash against transfer of the property.

In this case, held the Court, the 'payment against transfer' rule could not be applied, because the parties had specifically agreed otherwise, namely (a) that transfer could only take place after full payment, and (b) that the purchase price payment details "were to be agreed upon in writing between the two relevant parties by not later than the 30/04/2005." As the parties fell out before they had reached that subsequent agreement, the whole sale was void. This despite the fact that the buyer in this case had already paid the agreed purchase price and costs in full to the seller's attorneys - in other words, this is a classic case of a party to a sale being able to escape it through a technicality. Don't expose yourself to the same fate!


NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Chretien and Another v Bell (52/09) [2009] ZASCA 147 is on the Saflii website.

LEGAL COSTS AND TAX DEDUCTIBILITY - GOOD NEWS!

Trading expenses and losses are generally only allowed as tax deductions if they are incurred "in the production of income".

So what happens when you are sued - for damages perhaps - and incur substantial legal costs in defending yourself? Are you denied tax relief on those costs purely because they don't relate to the bringing in of income?

Good news in this regard comes from last year's Tax Court ruling in favour of a provincial Premier, who was sued for defamation arising from statements he made about an ex-colleague during an official press conference. The Premier lost the case, and attempted to soften the financial blow by deducting from his earnings both the legal costs and the damages award. There was a lot at stake (as there tends to be when protracted litigation is involved) - legal costs of R452.000 in addition to the damages award of R35.000. SARS disallowed these deductions, but was overruled by the Court.

This is good news for taxpayers generally, and it stems from the fact that the "production of income" rule does not apply to legal expenses. All you need prove is that the "claim, dispute or action at law" relates to "ordinary operations undertaken........in the carrying on of [your] trade". Note however that "expenditure of a capital nature" is excluded, and that there are complex issues involved here, with plenty of grey areas - so specialist advice based on the facts of each case is essential.

The second bit of good news is that even if you are - like the Premier - a salaried employee, you can still take advantage of this break. Strangely enough, you are for this purpose considered to be "carrying on a trade", because "trade" is defined as "every profession, trade, business, employment, calling, occupation or venture......"!


NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment of the Cape Tax Court in Income Tax Case no. 1837 71 SATC 177 is only available electronically to SATC subscribers, but Chris Smith of BDO Spencer Steward, who assisted me with the preparation of this article, is available to assist with any queries that may arise from a tax perspective. He may be reached on 021-4178732.

THE BANK, THE BUSINESSMAN, AND THE "GOOD" CHEQUES THAT BOUNCED

You receive an order for goods or services and accept payment by cheque - and then the customer pressures you to make immediate delivery.

Don't give in. Don't rely on the credit entry that shows up on your account as soon as the cheque is deposited. The funds only become available once the cheque is actually cleared (typically after 7 working days unless you ask - and pay for - special clearance within 2 working days).

An important warning in this regard emerges from a recent Supreme Court of Appeal case - you are not safe to deliver or pay out before clearance even if your bank specifically tells you, when you deposit the cheque, that it is "good".

In the case in question, a businessman delivered product to a purchaser on the strength of cheques which later turned out to carry forged signatures. As a result, he found himself out of pocket to the tune of R137.000. Although a bank official had confirmed to him, when the cheques were deposited, that they appeared to be "good", the Court held that that was not in any way a guarantee by the bank that the cheques were "good for the money" - just that they weren't post-dated, and hadn't been stopped.

The 7 days' clearance still applied, and the bank was accordingly entitled to reverse the credits made to the hapless customer's account, and to recover from him the R48.000 which he had withdrawn from the account before the forgeries were discovered.


NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Leeuw v First National Bank (516/2008) [2009] ZASCA 161 is on the Saflii website. Note the Court's comment that the condictio indebiti is available to a bank in this situation, despite some confusion over this point in earlier cases.

BUILDERS: JUST WHAT DO INTERIM PAYMENT CERTIFICATES PROVE?

Construction contracts commonly provide for "progress payments", based on "interim payment certificates" issued by an agent of the employer (often an architect, engineer or other professional) as the work proceeds.

Subject always to the terms of each individual contract, a certificate contains a valuation of work done (and materials supplied) to date, and a certification of the amount accordingly payable by "the employer" (the client in a building contract) to the contractor.

Note however that an interim certificate does not conclusively entitle the builder to payment. As illustrated in a recent High Court case, although the certificate itself gives rise to a claim and effectively proves the valuation of the work, it isn't "proof of the sufficiency of the work".

In other words, it certifies the value of the work done; it doesn't prove that the contractor has complied with all the terms of the contract. Consequently, as happened in this case, the employer is still free to raise issues of "defective work or any other breach of contract". In practice that can be a subtle distinction, so seek advice before taking any action on any disputed certificate (or, if you are the client, paying out on one).


NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Whiteleys Construction v Carlos Nunes CC (2924/09) [2009] ZAFSHC is on the Saflii website.

SHOPPER TRIPS, SUPERMARKET SLIPS

In awarding damages recently to a shopper who was injured when she tripped over something on a supermarket floor (possibly a protruding floor tile, although the supermarket claimed that she had rather slipped on something unidentified lying on the floor), the High Court made the following observations, which supermarkets would do well to take note of: -

  • ".........where accidents such as this one occur, it seems that any obstacle that was on the floor over which the plaintiff may have tripped, is an obstacle which should not have been there."
  • ".........it is strongly suggestive of negligence and unlawfulness if supermarkets allow obstacles to be on the floor, which should not be there and which cause persons to have accidents."

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Both v Post Office Cafe Bazaar CC (39502/08) [2009] ZAGPJHC is on the Saflii website.

THE MARCH WEBSITE: CONSUMER COMPLAINT? FLEX YOUR INTERNET MUSCLE!

Before you buy anything - goods or services - check out the supplier on the Internet first.

First Google the business, as well as its principal, directors or members - it's amazing how much information you can glean in cyberspace on even the smallest of businesses (if there's no trace of your supplier on the Net, find out why).

Then search again on the "Hellopeter.com" site at www.hellopeter.com. Consumers file both positive and negative reports on service providers, and the response of suppliers to complaints is tracked.

If you do experience problems with a supplier, who then refuses to resolve them both fairly and quickly - use Hellopeter to flex some muscle. Of course you need to be fair and reasonable here, and don't expose yourself to a defamation claim (take advice in doubt!). But if your complaint has merit, the adverse publicity of a negative report will persuade most suppliers to act on it immediately. If not, you at least have the satisfaction of warning off the public from falling into the same trap that you did!

Have a great March!

Februarie 2010


STORMWATERVLOEDE EN SONDE MET DIE BURE


Wanneer dit die dag behoorlik reën, verspoel jou eiendom met stormwater wat vanaf jou buurman se grond na joune toe oorvloei. Is dit jou verantwoordelik om die water weg te lei of moet jou buurman 'n plan maak?

Tensy daar wel 'n spesifieke serwituut ten gunste van jou buurman se grond geregistreer is, wat hom magtig om die water na jou grond te laat oorvloei, behoort jy eerstens met jou navorsing by die munisipale regulasies te begin. Verskillende munisipale owerhede het verskillende regulasies; so maak seker van jou plaaslike regulasies.

Die regulasies sal in die algemeen die volgende van grondeienaars verwag:-

  • Alle eienaars moet toesien dat hul stormwater na 'n openbare pad vloei, indien dit enigsins prakties moontlik is;
  • Slegs waar dit nie prakties moontlik is nie, sal van jou verwag word om water van 'n hoërliggende eiendom te ontvang (indien jy verplig word om 'n noodsaaklike drein of dreineringspyp hiervoor te installeer, sal jy waarskynlik die kostes hiervan van jou buurman kan verhaal);
  • Alternatiewelik, gee sommige munisipale owerhede na goeddunke instruksies aan privaat grondeienaars oor die hantering van stormwater; soms sal hul sover gaan om ander eienaars magtiging te gee om 'n drein op jou grond te bou.

In Suid-Afrika is daar gemeenregtelike nog altyd aanvaar dat 'n laerliggende eiendom, water van 'n hoërliggende eiendom moet ontvang. Die Hoogste Hof van Appèl het onlangs gewys dat die gemeenregtelike reël van min praktiese waarde in dig-ontwikkelde stedelike gebiede sal wees.

Die rede hiervoor is dat jy gemeenregtelik slegs verplig is om water in sy natuurlike vloei te ontvang. Daar word nie van 'n eienaar verwag om 'n toename in die vloei of konsentrasie van water van 'n hoër erf te ontvang nie, waar die toename die gevolg is van ontwikkeling van die gebied - deur byvoorbeeld grondverskuiwing; oprigting van geboue, plaveisel of mure, ensovoorts.

Die hof bevind dat die eienaar van die hoër grond moet aantoon wat die "natuurlike vloei" van die water is. Prakties sal dit 'n uiters ingewikkelde taak wees; of soos die hof dit stel: "determination of the 'natural flow' in the urban context is rendered virtually impossible by the very establishment of a modern urban township".

Dit lyk dus of dit wel jou buurman se plig is om self 'n plan te maak met sy water wat op jou erf oorvloei (tensy hy kan aantoon dat dit inderdaad die onveranderde natuurlike vloei van die water is). Vra hom dus om die probleem aan te spreek; indien hy nie wil saamwerk nie, verkry dan regsadvies.



GEDWONGE VERKOPINGSWAARDASIE NIE VOLDOENDE OM INSOLVENSIE TE BEWYS NIE

Die sekwestrasie van 'n skuldenaar se boedel is 'n regmatige en dikwels suksesvolle manier om lank uitstaande skulde in te vorder.

Die Hoë Hof het onlangs bevind dat die waardasies van bates wat aan die hof voorgehou moet word (om insolvensie te bewys) teen algemene markwaarde aangedui moet word; nie teen gedwonge verkopingswaarde ("forced sale" value) nie.
Jou waardeerder moet dus sy waardasies dienooreenkomstig voorberei; anders sal sodanige aansoek van die hand gewys word.



MOET JY 'N KREDIETOOREENKOMS AFDWING? MAAK DAN SEKER DAT DIE VOORGESKREWE KENNISGEWINGS BEHOORLIK AFGELEWER WORD.

Voordat jy dagvaarding kan uitreik vir die afdwinging van 'n kredietooreenkoms, moet jy aan die verbruiker 'n voorgeskrewe kennisgewing lewer. Hierin word hy gewys op die bepalings van die Nasionale Kredietwet en spesifiek sy versuim om te betaal en die opsies wat hy het om die aangeleentheid vir skuldberading of arbitrasie te verwys.

'n Hele paar sake het nou al die belangrikheid van nakoming van die kennisgewingsvereistes uitgewys. Indien die kennisgewing gelewer word aan 'n adres wat deur die skuldenaar gekies is, is lewering in orde, al het hy uiteindelik nie die kennisgewing ontvang nie. Dit is onlangs bevestig waar kennisgewing per geregistreerde pos versend is aan 'n gekose adres waar pos nie afgelewer word nie.

Indien kennis gegee word aan 'n adres wat nie pertinent deur die skuldenaar gekies is nie, sal dit nie aanvaarbaar wees nie, tensy jy kan bewys dat die skuldenaar inderdaad die kennisgewing ontvang het.

Om te bewys dat hy wel die kennisgewing ontvang het, is nie maklik nie; so maak seker dat die skuldenaar (verbruiker): -

  • 1.       Wanneer hy aansoek doen vir krediet ook sy domicilium citandi et executandi (regsterm vir die adres waar hy alle regskennisgewings en dagvaardings sal aanvaar) kies en aandui; en
  • 2.       Dat jy die kennisgewing op hierdie adres laat aflewer (via enige van die toelaatbare maniere van aflewering - geregistreerde pos en aflewering per hand is die mees aanvaarbare).

As 'n verbruiker is dit weer belangrik om rekord te hou van alle ooreenkomste waarin jy 'n domicilium adres kies. Wanneer jy van adres verwissel, is dit net so belangrik dat jy formeel en skriftelik kennis gee van hierdie wysiging en dat jy ook rekord hou hiervan (hou afskrifte en bewyse van jou kennisgewings van wysiging).


GESTEELDE MOTORS EN "EIENAARSRISIKO"

Stel jou voor jou motor word gesteel by die werkswinkel waar jy dit gelos het vir 'n diens.

"Dit is julle skuld dat my motor gesteel is......" deel jy die werkswinkelbestuurder of eienaar mee, "Betaal my uit asseblief".

"Jammer!" sê die werkswinkel se verteenwoordiger. "Kyk asseblief weer na die kennisgewings wat oral hier te sien is: 'Vehicles Are Left At Owner's Risk'. Die verlies is ongelukkig joune."

"Ek het nie opgelet na enige kennisgewings nie. Niemand het my aandag daarop gevestig nie."

"Jammer!" sê die werkswinkel. "Dan moet jy maar dagvaar."

Dan voeg jy die daad by die woord. Wie gaan wen?

Die Hoogste Hof van Appèl sê dit gaan waarskynlik nie jy wees nie. Die hof sê as daar voldoende en redelike optrede van die werkswinkel was om die eienaarsrisiko aan kliënte (en aan jou) oor te dra, is die werkswinkel veilig teen eise, selfs al het jy in werklikheid nie die kennisgewings gesien nie. So lank as wat die kennisgewings nie op so manier geplaas was om die kliënte te mislei nie.

(If the service centre "acted sufficiently reasonably in bringing to the attention of its customers in general, and to [you] in particular, the existence of the owner's risk notice". Whether or not you actually saw the notice is irrelevant, provided it wasn't "located in a misleading manner".)

Op die feite bevind die hof dat daar meer as voldoende kennisgewings geplaas is om aan eienaars oor te dra dat voertuie op hul risiko by die werkswinkel gelaat word.

Die hof bevind dat die kennisgewings prominent vertoon is en dat die boodskap daarin duidelik en ondubbelsinnig bewoord is. Die hof bevind verder dat hierdie kennisgewingsborde by die voertuigverkoopslokaal, by die ingang van die ontvangsarea van die werkswinkel en by die Kassierstoonbank duidelik vertoon is.



WIL JY 'N EIS SKIK? MOET NIE UITSLUITLIK STAAT MAAK OP 'N TJEK "IN VOLLE EN FINALE VEREFFENING" NIE

Jy is in 'n dispuut gewikkel oor die werklike bedrag wat aan iemand verskuldig is. Jy het jou somme gemaak en bied dan 'n tjek aan vir die bedrag wat jy reken verskuldig is. Hierdie tjek merk jy duidelik op die voorkant "In volle en finale skikking." ("In full and final settlement").

Jy kan dalk aanvaar dat dit die einde van die saak is. Die skuldeiser aanvaar die tjek so en deponeer dit in sy bankrekening. Eis afgehandel?

Gewoonlik ja, maar daar is uitsonderings. Die Hooggeregshof het onlangs 'n saak bereg waar daar twee verskillende skuldoorsake voortspruitend uit twee verskillende ooreenkomste tussen dieselfde partye ter sprake was. Hier kon die skuldenaar nie bewys dat sy aanbod ter vereffening gemaak was om beide kontrakte te skik nie.

'n Kompromis of skikkingsaanbod word eng en beperkend uitgelê. As daar dus onduidelikheid oor die strekwydte van die kompromis bestaan, gaan dit tot voordeel van die skuldeiser uitgelê word. Dit moet dus duidelik en ondubbelsinnig wees om geldig te wees.

Dit is dus nie altyd voldoende om 'n aanbod "In volle en finale skikking" te maak nie. Die veiligste roete is om 'n skikkingsbetaling via jou prokureur aan te bied, onder dekking van 'n behoorlik uiteengesette skikkingsbrief vir aanvaarding.



ONTWIKKELAARS : GEE JOUSELF VOLDOENDE TYD VIR UITBREIDINGS

Wanneer 'n ontwikkelaar die reg voorbehou om 'n Deeltitelskema uit te brei, moet hy by registrasie van die reg, uitdruklik aandui vir hoe lank hierdie reg van uitbreiding voorbehou word. Enige regte wat nie uitgeoefen of opgeneem word nie, sal na verstryking van die periode in die Deeltitelskema se Regspersoon setel.

Dit is belangrik dat jy as ontwikkelaar voldoende tyd hiervoor voorbehou. Die Hoogste Hof van Appèl het onlangs bevestig dat geen hof die bevoegdheid het om hierdie periode vir uitbreidings en verdere ontwikkeling te verleng nie.

As ontwikkelaar is jy gebonde aan die tydsduur wat jy aanvanklik vir jou voorbehou het.



MUNISIPALITEITE - KYK WEER NA DIE BEWOORDING VAN DIENSVERSKAFFINGSOOREENKOMSTE!

Die invorderingsprosedures van munisipaliteite het onlangs onder kritiese kommentaar van die Hoë Hof deurgeloop.

Indien munisipale diensverskaffingsooreenkomste te wyd bewoord word, sal die Nasionale Kredietwet daarop van toepassing wees wanneer agterstallige betalings opgevorder word vir dienste wat gelewer is. Dit bring mee dat 'n meer omslagtige en ingewikkelde skuldinvorderingsproses gevolg moet word.

Eise vir eiendomsbelasting word vrygestel van die bepalings van die Nasionale Kredietwet. Indien ander munisipale dienste in gevolge van behoorlik geformuleerde diensverskaffingsooreenkomste gelewer word, sal dit ook vrygestel wees. Die bewyslas om te bewys dat die Nasionale Kredietwet nie van toepassing is nie bly op die munisipaliteit. Munisipaliteite behoort dus hul diensverskaffingsooreenkomste te hersien om dit in lyn te bring met die wet en die uitspraak.



FEBRUARIE SE WEBWERF : GRATIS EN ONMIDDELLIKE VERTALINGS AANLYN BESKIKBAAR (OOK IN AFRIKAANS)

Benodig jy dringend produkinligting van 'n webblad wat geheel in Sjinees geskryf is? Wat van 'n belangrike e-pos wat jy ontvang het, maar wat in Italiaans geskryf is? Moet jy wag tot 'n begroting goedgekeur is vir 'n professionele vertaling van die inligting? Of in elk geval uithaal en wys vir vertalingsdienste?

Sekerlik nie in die Internet-era nie! "Google-translate" te http://translate.google.com gee vir jou 'n onmiddellike en kragtige vertalingsdiens vir teks, dokumente en webwerwe.

Huidiglik word vertalings in 51 tale gedoen - van "A" to "Y": Afrikaans (nuut op die lys) tot Yiddish - via Frans, Duits, Iers, Latwies, Russies, Swahili, Vietnamees, ensovoorts.

Probeer dit gerus, dit is indrukwekkend. Dit is akkuraat genoeg om vir jou 'n goeie aanduiding te gee wat die inhoud van die vreemde dokument is. Dit is natuurlik nie heeltemal perfek nie; vir meer ingewikkelde skrywes gaan jy steeds 'n vertaler wil raadpleeg. Dit gaan wel vir jou vinnig 'n rowwe en bruikbare vertaling gee.



BONUS WEBWERF VIR SPORTENTOESIASTE

"Sport is a world-changing field. It lifts lives, powers economies, stops countries and forges nations" (Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts).


Ons wens u 'n goeie Februarie - en onthou dat ♥Valentynsdag♥ op die 14e Februarie gevier word

January 2010


SELLERS, WATCH OUT! DOUBLE COMMISSION DANGER


If you are selling a property, you need to be aware that you will have to pay commission to any agent who is the "effective cause" of a sale, even if you have terminated that agent's mandate before the actual sale takes place. Worse, if you brought in a second agent to replace the first, you risk having to pay double commission!

In awarding commission recently to an agent whose mandate had been terminated, the Court commented: "an unempowered agent may still be the effective cause of a sale and thus entitled to commission. The inquiry in such a case is normally whether despite the termination or non-existence of a prior mandate the work done by the unempowered agent was sufficiently significant to merit the award of commission even though not constituting the immediate or proximate cause of the ultimate transaction."

That's a wide definition, and every case will be decided on its particular facts. Briefly, the facts here were that the agent had, before the expiry of a sole mandate in her favour, made the initial introduction of the eventual purchaser to the property. The sale itself however was only concluded some 7 months later, long after the mandate had lapsed, and after relations between the seller and the agent had soured and become hostile. The parties concluded the sale themselves, and only after they had negotiated directly with each other for some time.

There's also a lot at stake. In this case, the seller is down R560.000, plus interest and costs - which, however fair it is to the agent, doubtless wreaks havoc on the seller's cash flow projections! Tread carefully, and take advice in doubt.

Agents on the other hand should take legal action to recover disputed commission without delay - the agent in this case risked losing to a defence that the claim had prescribed.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Daubern t/a Daubern Properties v Swart (8009/06) [2009] ZAGPPHC 137 is on the Saflii website.

SCHOOL FEES - BOTH PARENTS LIABLE

Schools battling to recover unpaid fees will be heartened by a recent Supreme Court of Appeal decision to the effect that both parents are responsible for paying school fees, regardless of whether or not they have custody and/or guardianship of the learner.

In the case in question, the school sued the child's biological father for outstanding fees. The father countered that the school must look for payment only to the mother, as sole legal custodian of the child.

That argument failed on appeal, and the Court's finding against the father now allows schools to recover school fees from: -

  1. 1.        Both biological parents
  2. 2.        Guardians
  3. 3.        Custodians
  4. 4.        Any other person who has undertaken to fulfil those persons' obligations in regard to the learner's education.

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Fish Hoek Primary School v G W (642/2008) [2009] ZASCA 144 is on the Saflii website.

SERVITUDES: REGISTER THEM!

If you want to retain any form of usage of a property after selling it, make sure that you tell your attorney before you sign anything, so that the sale agreement will provide for registration of an appropriate servitude against the title deeds in the Deeds Office. That's the only way to ensure that all subsequent owners of the property will automatically be bound by it.

If you don't register the servitude, you will have to prove (and the onus of proof here is on you) that subsequent owners actually knew of it when purchasing the property.

That's not going to be easy, and the dangers of relying on an unregistered right of use are illustrated in a case recently before the High Court. The original owner of a farm had sold it subject to retaining a life-long right to remain in occupation of the farmhouse. However when the farm was sold on, he was unable to prove that the subsequent buyer had had any knowledge of his rights. The Court accordingly ordered his eviction from the farmhouse.

And although the final owner had initially granted him a right to keep his cattle on the farm, the Court held that this right - being unregistered - could be terminated on reasonable notice, which had been given. So his livestock had to go too.


NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Beetge v Bruwer (38578/2005) [2009] ZAGPPHC 65 is on the Saflii website.

MEDIATION: WHEN TO CONSIDER IT, AND THE DANGERS OF DECLINING

The High Court recently gave notice that it will use costs orders to punish litigants who engage in expensive litigation without first giving mediation a try in appropriate cases. Although normally a successful litigant is awarded his/her legal costs against the loser, the Court in this matter (a divorce dispute over division of assets and maintenance) required both parties to pay their own costs.

Of course mediation will not be appropriate in every case. But if your attorney advises you to consider it, not doing so could be an extremely expensive mistake - in the case in question for example, costs were estimated at between R500.000 and R750.000.

Note that although this case was a family dispute, there are strong indications in the judgment that the principle could well be applied - although perhaps to a lesser extent - in appropriate commercial matters as well.


NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: Find the judgment in Brownlee v Brownlee, South Gauteng High Court case no. 2008/25274 on the Equillore website. The Court strongly criticized the attorneys involved for failing to advise their clients to go to mediation, and imposed an additional costs sanction on them as well.

FRAUD ON SARS = INVALID CONTRACT

When concluding any sale agreement, be careful not to lay yourself open to any suggestion of fraud on SARS. Even if the allegation is totally false, just a perception of tax evasion will give the other party "a stick to beat you with".

In a case recently before the High Court, the purchaser of a nightclub business sought to escape payment to the seller by alleging that the purchase price had been split between two separate contracts in order to reduce the seller's Capital Gains Tax liability. The Court confirmed that any transaction "one of the objectives of which was to perpetrate a fraud upon the revenue" is invalidated by statute.

Despite the seller's denial of any attempt at tax evasion, the Court also referred the papers to the Commissioner of SARS "for his consideration and any further action he may deem appropriate" - presumably not a happy prospect for the parties in light of the severe monetary and criminal penalties attaching to tax fraud.


NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: The judgment in Acolla v Pillay and Another (1757/2009, 801/2009) [2009] ZAKZDHC 54 is on the Saflii website.

CIPRO'S WARNING: SUBMIT ANNUAL RETURNS, OR ELSE!

The principals of all companies and close corporations are required by law to lodge annual returns with Cipro (with payment of the relevant fees), and Cipro has again warned that failure to do so timeously will result in the imposition of penalties, followed by deregistration.

Deregistration, warns Cipro, will expose directors/members to the following: -

  1. 1.        Loss of limited liability (i.e. personal liability for all debts of the entity), and
  2. 2.        Loss of the entity's status as a separate legal entity (with a consequent inability to continue trading), and
  3. 3.        Forfeiture of the entity's assets to the state.

So check now that your corporate annual returns are all up to date!

NOTE FOR ATTORNEYS: Useful downloads from Cipro's website are its guide "Annual Returns For Companies And Close Corporations", and its Notice of Intention re "Annual Return Non Compliance on Companies and Close Corporations".

Deregistrations are listed on Cipro's "Publications" page.

THE JANUARY WEBSITES: NEW YEAR HIRING - THE QUEST FOR THE RIGHT EMPLOYEE, WITH THE RIGHT EQ

If you plan to hire new staff from January's latest crop of job hunters, make sure that you choose the right person for the job, by conducting your interviews to maximum effect.

Start off with Small Capital's "10 Tips for a good interview" at www.smallcapital.co.za/articles.htm?article=675.

Then focus on the candidate's Emotional Intelligence Quotient. As EQ supposedly accounts for "anywhere from 24% to 69% of performance success", you will want to identify high scorers, and weed out the others.

Use the sample interview questions in the Harvard Business Publishing article "Hiring for Emotional Intelligence" at http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/hmu/2008/11/hiring-for-emotional-intellige.html.

Last but not least, look for the employee who will agree with Thomas Edison: "I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun!"


Happiness and Success in 2010!

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