Seller and Landlord advice on compulsory disclosure rules in new Property Practitioner Act

The New Property Practitioners Act provides more protection for consumers including the need to disclose defects in both sales and rentals, warns industry experts.

The new Property Practitioner’s Act 2019 is an important piece of legislation in the property sector. With the publication of the regulations in mid-December. The Act and all of its provisions will take full effect on the 1st of February this year.

The Act brings a number of changes to the industry including updating the title of estate agents from “estate agent” to “property practitioner”.

Although it has been in practice for some time, it is now a legal requirement. The document must be signed by all parties and annexed to the respective sale or lease agreement.

According to Tiaan Pretorius, manager for Seeff Centurion, sellers should not try to cover or conceal defects because this can land a seller in hot water since they could be sued by the purchaser. However, should a seller fail to disclose a fault that they were unaware of. They would obviously not have been able to declare it, hence it is unlikely to pose a problem for the seller.

Seeff, however, strongly recommends that prospective buyers get a home inspection done to safeguard against any problems down the line.

Patent or Latent defects disclosure

There are generally two types of defects, namely patent defects which are those that are visible to the naked eye. Latent defects which usually relate to structural issues and are more difficult to spot. The property practitioner must undertake a thorough inspection and the seller must point out all defects, regardless of whether they are patent or latent.

Patent defects are usually easily identifiable. These would include aspects such as cracks in the walls, sagging gutters, cracked or broken windows, damaged light switches. Cracks around the swimming pool, deteriorated woodwork, damaged cupboards, cracking paint work, cracked tiles and damage to carpets, laminate or wooden flooring.

Latent defects include structural issues such as unsteady walls, leaking roofs. Faulty geysers and swimming pool pumps, rising damp and so on.

It is important to choose a reputable home inspector with the relevant expertise to inspect. Discover defects in the property. The cost of the inspection is for the buyer’s account, but this is money well-spent, he says further.

It will also put the buyer in a position to request repairs or negotiate reparations as part of the conditions of sale.

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Sadly, buyers are not protected by the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) in real estate transactions. As these are considered to take place between two consumers (i.e. the seller and the buyer) and not between a supplier and a consumer.

Unless a buyer is purchasing a home from a developer or from somebody whose ordinary course of business is to sell properties, Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa warns that the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) does not come into play.

A legal term that describes the sale of an item as is, regardless of any defects.

“This is why is so important to have a property thoroughly inspected before a buyer submits an offer,” Goslett explains.

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To protect both parties from further arguments down the line.

Latent defects are trickier

While common law states that the seller is responsible for all latent defects. In the property for three years from the date of discovery of the defect. The voetstoots clause protects the seller against all defects that are unknown to him.

To benefit from common law, the buyer will need to prove that the seller was aware of a latent defect. Deliberately concealed it from the buyer.

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Depending on the circumstances and the wording of the sale agreement.

Discovering defects before transfer

One of the most important decisions to make, when signing an offer to purchase, is when should the purchaser occupy? The options are either “on registration of transfer” or a specific date, pinpointed in the agreement. Taking early occupation, with the cost of occupational rent, does have the benefits of seeing exactly what you’re buying.

Bryan Biehler of Huizemark Real Estate says an agreed occupation date before transfer, gives everybody clarity and prompts people to plan ahead.

With regard to defects in a second-hand property, and the rise of consumer protection expectations.

A straightforward transfer far outweighs the cost and delay. In having a dispute over whether the seller is liable to repair the defects or not, says Biehler.

With some general advice, it is better to seek professional legal council on this topic if issues do arise,” advises Goslett.

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