Dealing with a difficult debtor

Going about collecting debt can be a stressful and confusing business. It only gets more frustrating when someone who owes you money doesn’t pay it back. If someone does owe you money (a debtor), then there are certain legal steps that can be taken to ensure you get your money back.

Taking legal action against a debtor can be an expensive and time-consuming process, hence the importance of having sound legal advice or the help of an attorney who specialises in debt collection.

An important point to remember is that you should have a legal agreement with the debtor in place before you seek legal action. If not, the process may be far more difficult than you’d have imagined or worse, it could backfire in your direction.

Where can debts be claimed?

Debts can be claimed in the High Court, for debts that are above R300 000. Amounts between R100 000 and R300 000 must be claimed in the Regional Court and amounts under R100 000 must be claimed in the Magistrate’s Court.

What must I do to get my money back?

When claiming a debt, the first thing to do is send a letter of demand to the debtor. The letter should include all the necessary information of the debt such as the details of the transaction, the amount outstanding and the due date for payment. This letter can also contain a threat of legal action should the debtor not pay by the due date.

If the debtor decides to ignore the letter and the threat, then you can institute legal action to recover the money. If you believe it’s not worth it or not possible to recover the full amount, then you can write the debt off, making sure you remember never to give that person money again.

An attorney can help with the process of collecting a debt. It’s important to always consult an attorney about an outstanding debt before taking any action. If you don’t enlist the help of professional attorneys, especially when you are owed a lot of money, you may end up not getting your money back at all from a lack of legal expertise. Furthermore, if you lose a court case, you may also end up paying the other person’s legal fees.

After a letter of demand is sent to the debtor, and they do not pay by the due date, then a summons will be served to them by the Sheriff of the Court. Ten days after the summons has been served, an attorney will take judgement in court against the debtor.

The following process for claiming a debt only applies to those who do not adhere to the National Credit Act (NCA). Businesses that sell credit, for example, will have other requirements to fulfil according to the NCA. All claims must be instituted within three years if you want to get your money back.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Reference:

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

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How can I evict my tenant lawfully?

You’ve discovered that the tenant renting your apartment has damaged several appliances, including the floor tiles due to irresponsible behaviour. Therefore, you have decided to terminate the lease contract and evict the tenant. Are you allowed to do that and how do you get started?

Firstly, there has to be valid reasons to evict a tenant, such as the example above. Even if you do have a valid reason to pursue eviction, a legal process has to be followed if you want to stay within the law. The first step is to cancel the lease contract with the tenant and let the tenant know that it’s cancelled and the reasons why. After the contract is terminated, the tenant would be occupying the premises illegally. You can then go to a court with an eviction application or “ejectment order”. When you do this you will be required to prove that the contract with the tenant was properly terminated and that the reasons for doing so were valid.

It’s important to make sure the reasons you want to evict the tenant are valid. This is because tenants are protected by the Prevention of Illegal Eviction from and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act, No. 19 of 1998. You cannot just evict a tenant because you don’t like them.

Other grounds for an eviction

Besides a tenant causing serious damage to a property there are two other grounds for an eviction. The obvious one is the tenant not paying his/her rent after having been told to do so. Another reason is the tenant using the property for anything other than was agreed upon in the contract. A tenant who opens a business in the apartment they are renting would be in breach of their contract if it was agreed to be rented for residential purposes only.

What happens at the court?

The eviction application can be taken to the Magistrate’s Court or the High Court. Court proceedings will follow, which the tenant should be notified about. It’s very likely that the tenant will deny any wrongdoing and say the eviction doesn’t have good grounds. If this is the case, they can inform the court. A dispute and court case may ensue, the outcome of which would depend on the evidence of what happened. Therefore, if you are considering evicting a tenant, make sure your reasons are clear and that there is evidence for the eviction. If the tenant broke property on your premises because of being irresponsible, then that could be solid evidence.

Dealing with the tenant

The tenant may agree that they have done something wrong or simply decided not to oppose the eviction, in which case the court would issue an ejectment order. The ejectment order will force the tenant to leave the property, which will be carried out by the Sheriff of the Court. It’s important to remember that the landlord is not allowed to personally remove tenants from their premises. Leave that to the authorities. Furthermore, the court may order the tenant to pay the legal costs of the landlord.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Reference:

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

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Luttig Badenhorst Fourie (LBF) Prokureurs presteer

LBF Prokureurs, wie deurgaans op ABSA se lys van Top 10 Prokureurs in die Wes-Kaap is, het vir ‘n 3de, agtereenvolgende keer ABSA se prys ontvang vir registrasie van die meeste verbande per maand.

In April 2017 is LBF ook aangewys as Toppresteerder in die Wes-Kaap uit ‘n totaal van 139 prokureur firmas.

Beverley AppelAmanda Eksteen

Ons wens graag vir Beverley Appel (links) en Amanda Eksteen (regs) geluk met hierdie prestasie en bedank hulle vir hul bydrae en insette.

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How and when to use the small claims court

The small claims court (SCC) is for anyone who wants to institute a minor civil claim against someone else. You can also claim against companies and associations. However, the claims are limited to amounts that are less than R15 000. This excludes the State, meaning a person cannot make a claim against a local municipality, for example. Claims made in the SCC are done quickly and cheaply without having to use an attorney and anyone, except juristic persons, are allowed to use them.

Read more about the SCC on The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s website: justice.gov.za

Where do I start?

If you are going to institute a claim against someone else, be smart about it. Don’t make a claim against someone who you know has no money to pay you back, such as an unemployed person.

Before running to the court to make a claim, first contact the person you intend to claim from and ask them to fulfil your request. Let them know you are planning on going to the court to make a claim against them if they don’t comply.

Perhaps the person is not interested in your claim, then send them a written demand letter. The letter should set out the details of the claim, including the amount. Give them at least 14 days from the day of receiving your letter to settle your claim. Make sure they get an actual physical copy of the letter. This can be posted to them, or you can simply take it to them directly.

So 14 days has passed and they didn’t respond. Now you can go to the clerk of the court with documents to institute your claim. Firstly, you will need proof that you delivered the letter of demand. This can be a post office slip, for example.  You will also need a contract or document that gives a basis for your claim. Your claims can’t just be based on thin air. Lastly, provide the court with all the details of the person you’re claiming from, such as name, address and phone number.

The summons

The clerk of the court will help you in drawing up the summons. Once the summons is complete a hearing will also be scheduled. You then have to serve the summons to the opposing party (defendant) in person and get them to sign it. Don’t be surprised if they are visibly upset. Remember to make copies of all the documents and keep them. Also give copies to the defendant. The original documents must be handed over to the clerk of the court before the day of the hearing. This information will be kept in the court file.

After they receive the summons, the defendant may deliver a plea (written statement) to the clerk of the court. They may also issue a counterclaim. Regardless of whether the defended institutes a plea or counterclaim, they still have to attend the hearing. On the other hand, the defendant may decide to fulfil your claim before the hearing, you should then issue a written receipt and let the clerk of the court know that you won’t be continuing with the case.

Going to the hearing

You and the defendant must appear in court in person, attorneys or lawyers are not allowed at the hearing. Remember to bring along all the documents on which your claim is based, there’s no point in showing up empty-handed. If you have witnesses, make sure they also come with you to the hearing. The SCC proceedings are basic and straight-forward. As mentioned, no attorneys are involved. As the proceedings begin, answer any questions that the commissioner of the court asks you. If you want and the commissioner agrees, then you can direct questions to the defendant. 

The final judgment

After the proceedings have been completed, the court will make a judgement, which is final. There may, however, be some grounds for review. If the judgement is against you, then you should settle any order for costs. Since the court judgement is final, you have to abide by it. You can’t change your mind afterwards.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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Hoekom moet ek my eie Aktebesorger aanstel wanneer ek my eiendom verkoop?

Maak eerstens seker dat, wanneer jy ‘n prokureur aanstel om die registrasie van ‘n eiendom in die Aktekantoor namens jou te hanteer, dat hy of sy ‘n gekwalifiseerde Aktebesorger is. ‘n Aktebesorger is ‘n prokureur wat ‘n verdere eksamen geskryf het en ‘n aanvullende kwalifikasie verwerf het. Hy of sy word deur die Hoërhof toegelaat om as aktebesorger te praktiseer en hy of sy spesialiseer in eiendomstransaksies, meer spesifiek: die opstel van die dokumente wat gebruik word wanneer ‘n eiendom verkoop word of wanneer ‘n verband ten gunste van byvoorbeeld ‘n bank, geregistreer word.

Jy moet seker maak dat jy met ‘n aktebesorger, en nie slegs ‘n prokureur nie, konsulteer en hom of haar aanstel wanneer jy  jou eiendom verkoop. Hy of sy moet die koopbrief vir jou bestudeer VOOR jy dit teken, jou van deskundige advies voorsien en jou belange beskerm. Indien jy byvoorbeeld, die ander party se Aktebesorger aanstel, mag hy of sy moontlik die transaksie, tot u nadeel, vertraag. Jou eie Aktebesorger sal jou transaksie so spoedig moontlik, met inagneming van jou versoeke, soos verwoord in die koopbrief, afhandel.

Dit is jou reg en in jou belang om jou eie aktebesorger aan te stel.

Hierdie artikel is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet nie gebruik word of op staatgemaak word as regs- of ander professionele advies nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of vir enige verlies of skade voortspruitend uit vertroue geplaas op inligting hierin vervat nie. Behoudens foute en weglatings (BFW).

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Nasionale Testamente Week

Nasionale Testamente Week sal weereens gehou word vanaf 11 tot 15 September 2017 by die kantore van LUTTIG BADENHORST FOURIE (LBF) PROKUREURS

Hoe werk testamente week?
• Basiese testamente word gratis opgestel.
• Geen heropstel of wysiging van bestaande testamente nie.
• Geen opstel van ingewikkelde testamente wat trusts, ens. vervat nie.

Jy moet ‘n afspraak maak, want afsprake is beperk.

Tel 028-4241119. Bring jou ID, huweliksertifikaat, voorhuwelikse kontrak, volle name en ID-nommers van erfgename saam na jou afspraak.

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Is jou testament op datum?

15S53A0334Niemand dink graag aan die dood nie! Die maklikste uitweg is dus om die opstel van jou testament uit te stel – wat natuurlik beteken dat jy nooit ‘n testament opstel nie.

‘n Testament is een van die belangrikste dokumente wat jy in jou lewe opstel. Daar is baie formaliteite waaraan voldoen moet word. Daarom moet ‘n kundige, soos ‘n prokureur, dit opstel.  ‘n Persoon wie die testament uitskryf en wie as getuie teken, mag byvoorbeeeld nie erf uit die testateur se boedel nie en mag ook nie optree as eksekuteur nie.

‘n Testament is nie ‘n eenvoudige dokument nie.Kyk dus jaarliks na jou testament. Hersien dit ook nadat jy getrou het, geskei is, bates gekoop/verkoop het, ‘n kind/kleinkind/ander erfgenaam gebore of oorlede is en jy geërf het.

Kontak Marguerite Badenhorst  – marguerite@lbflaw.co.za oor jou testament.

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Co-owning property with someone else: The ups and downs

What is co-ownership?

Co-ownership is when one or more people jointly own the same property. In essence, it is when they legally share ownership without dividing the property into physical portions for their exclusive use. It is thus commonly referred to as co-ownership in undivided shares.

It is possible to agree that owners acquire the property in different shares; for instance, one person owns 70 percent and the other 30 percent of the single property. The different shares can be recorded and registered in the title deeds by the Deeds Office.

The benefits

On paper, it’s a great idea. For starters, the bond repayments and costs of maintaining the home are halved. However, there can be problems and although not every friendship or relationship is destined to disintegrate, there does often come a time when one of the parties involved wants to sell up and move on to bigger and better things.

The risks

If ownership is given to one or more purchasers, without stipulating in what shares they acquire the property, it is legally presumed that they acquired the property in equal shares.

The risks, the benefits and the obligations that flow from the property are shared in proportion to each person’s share of ownership in the property. For instance, one of the co-owners fails to contribute his share of the finances as initially agreed, resulting in creditors such as the bank or Body Corporate taking action to recover the shortfall.

Having an agreement

If two people own property together in undivided shares it is advisable to enter into an agreement which will regulate their rights and obligations if they should decide to go their own separate ways.

The practical difficulties that flow from the rights and duties of co-ownership are captured by the expression communio est mater rixarum or “co-ownership is the mother of disputes”. It is therefore important that, when the agreement the co-owners entered into does not help them solve disputes, certain remedies are available to them.

The agreement should address the following issues:

  1. In what proportion will the property be shared?
  2. Who has the sole right to occupy the property?
  3. Who will contribute what initial payments to acquire the property.
  4. Who will contribute what amounts to the ongoing future costs and finances.
  5. How the profits or losses will be split, should the property or a share be sold?
  6. The sale of one party’s share must be restricted or regulated.
  7. The right to draw funds out of the access bond must be regulated.
  8. A breakdown of the relationship between the parties.
  9. Death or incapacity of one of the parties.
  10. Dispute resolution options before issuing summons.
  11. Termination of the agreement.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

 References:

http://igrow.co.za/co-ownership-of-property-what-you-need-to-know/

http://www.privateproperty.co.za/advice/property/articles/the-pitfalls-of-property-co-ownership/5046

http://www.jgs.co.za/index.php/property/owning-prop-jointly-the-do-s-and-dont-s

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Do I need a cohabitation contract with my partner?

Cohabitation is a relationship between two people who choose to live together in a monogamous and stable environment. Couples who decide on cohabitation could do so, prior to getting married, as an alternative to marriage, or while they are still in the process of divorce and are already living with their new partner.

The differences between marriage and cohabitation are as follows:

  1. No legal protection if/when the partnership ends.
  2. Claiming maintenance after a separation could be more difficult/impossible.
  3. No court is required to end the relationship.
  4. Partners won’t necessarily inherit from each other.
  5. Cohabitants cannot insure each other’s property.

What happens if there is no written cohabitation agreement?

  • If there is no agreement on the dissolution of a relationship, a person is only entitled to retain the property which s/he has purchased and owns.
  • The couple would be entitled to share in the property proportionately in terms of the contribution which they have made to the relationship. Each person will need to prove what property they have acquired together in order to get back what they are entitled to.
  • If a dispute arises, a court may be approached for assistance.

How are couples protected in cohabitation?

  • In order to protect the couple in cohabitation, rights and obligations of the couple can be protected by way of entering into a cohabitation agreement. The agreement regulates the relationship during its existence and after it has come to an end.
  • A cohabitation agreement can be entered into verbally or in writing. It is recommended that such an agreement be concluded in writing and signed.
  • The agreement can be concluded at any time during the relationship.

A cohabitation contract

If two partners have decided to live together it would be beneficial to have a contract drawn up. These are some elements the contract could contain:

  1. Household expenses: Who is responsible for paying what and from whose account?
  2. Joint property: If you want joint assets rather than separate assets.
  3. Joint home: If you want a home to be registered in both names of the partners, however, the partners don’t have to have equal shares in the property.
  4. End of relationship: Deciding what will happen with each other’s assets after the relationship ends and whether or not one partner will be able to receive maintenance from the other.
  5. Children: If there’s a child, the parental rights and responsibilities should be set out, but this has to be done with legal advice first and should be registered.

 Conclusion

Cohabitation can be successful in and of itself, but without a contract there are no ‘safety nets’. This could prove a mistake in relationships where property or a child is involved.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Reference:

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

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How do I cancel a lease?

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

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

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

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

For tenants

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

For landlords

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

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

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

 References:

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