‘What should I know when buying a house?’

In the third instalment of our legal advice series, Legal Aid SA helps a first-time home buyer and a man who says his wife gave him HIV.

Q: I’m in the process of buying a house, and I have no clue where to start legally and to avoid being conned. Please help.

A: The client must personally view the property. If the client is buying the property through an estate agent, you must confirm that the agent is registered at the Estate Agents Affairs Board. The first step is to draw up an offer to purchase, as soon as an agreement has been reached with regards to the terms of the sale. It is advisable that the client takes the offer to purchase to an attorney to check, before signing. Thereafter, if the client is not paying the purchase price in cash, the client will need to apply for a bond at a financial institution. You can apply for a bond yourself or use the assistance of a bond originator. Thereafter, the conveyancing attorney that will attend to the transfer will assist and advise the client on the documents needed and way forward.

Q: I need urgent advice. I’m married but my wife gave me HIV. However, she only told me two years into our marriage. Only after I confronted her did she confess that she got it from someone else. I want to file for a divorce, but I don’t know how. Please help.

A: The client should approach the clerk of the nearest regional civil court or seek the assistance of an attorney to institute proceedings for the dissolution of the marriage.

Q: I have a one-vehicle start-up business that was sub-contracted to a broker in Johannesburg. The broker failed to pay me for the 10 months he was using the vehicle for. The amount owed by him is R240 000. I have no money at all to afford lawyer’s fees. Any advice would be highly appreciated.

A: The client can institute legal action in the regional court. Summons will be issued against this broker for breach of contract, claiming payment of the outstanding amount to client. The client can contact the Law Society of Cape Town to enquire which private attorneys can assist the client on a pro bono basis.

Q: On October 17 2014, I bought a solar heating system from a Cape Town company. My problem started six months ago when I reported to the company the system was not working to my satisfaction. They told me the circulation pump needed to be replaced, but it would be at my cost because the pump only had a two-year warranty, which had expired.

My contract makes no mention of such a warranty. On the contrary it says a 10-year warranty is applicable. I feel that the contract is misleading and the warranty should stand. I am a pensioner and feel aggrieved that I should have to pay for a new pump.

A: The company is in breach of the agreement and the client can refer the matter to the National Consumer Regulator. In terms of Section 55 of the Consumer Protection Act, every consumer has the right to goods that are of good quality, in working order, free of defects and reasonably suitable for the purpose generally intended. Goods of lesser quality may only be sold if the consumer has been expressly informed that the goods are offered in a specific condition and the consumer clearly accepts the goods. The client has the right to bring an application for specific performance to court. If the order is granted it will compel the supplier to adhere to the terms of the contract.

Q: My 75-year-old mom must now move from her home, even though she is an owner/shareholder of the property, so that someone with habitatio (the right to freely reside in someone else’s house) can move back. Why should someone who owns part of a property have to go and pay to stay somewhere else? What happens to that owner’s share of the inheritance? Please advise. Is there a way to go higher than a ruling at the magistrate’s court?

A: The client has to approach the High Court to appeal against the judgment of the magistrate’s court. However, she must have good and valid grounds of appeal.

Q: I am the owner of a house in Eastridge. My first wife died, and I approached the Masters for legal advice. I was told to use any of the lawyers that were available for pro-bono. The lawyer charged me
R10 000 for the transfer and all other costs involved. I was also given an option to pay off the amount in R1000 monthly instalments. I was not aware of all this, as I was under the impression that when I die, all cost will be deducted once my house has been sold. I ask whether it is possible to assist me as I am a pensioner and do not have that kind of money.

A: The amounts will only be paid out of the estate if they are available. It appears that the estate does not have sufficient funds to pay for the transfer costs, and therefore the client is liable unless you want the house to be sold to third parties to recover costs. The client will then remain without the property to stay on and to bequeath to any heirs.

Q: I am a divorced single parent and unemployed. My son is 12 and in a Model C school because it’s almost on our doorstep. I became unemployed and could not afford the school fees anymore. That time, I did not apply for relief of fees as it was past the due date. The sheriff came and I signed to pay R200 a month. This year, I signed again for last year’s school fees which is R100. I pay the lawyers R300 a month. Every month, I suffer because they threaten to come fetch my furniture. This is so stressful because I’m struggling to put food on the table. Is there a way I can please get some help to be relieved of this stress. It has affected my health and my family life.

A: The client acknowledges that they are liable for the arrear school fees. The client needs to pay and settle the arrear school fees, through continuing the monthly payments of R300. If the client makes the monthly payments, then the attorneys cannot take further legal action against you. The client must report harassment to the Council for Debt Collectors. If the other parent of the minor child is not contributing towards maintenance for the minor child, then the client must approach the maintenance court. The other parent of the child has an obligation to maintain their child.

For more information call Legal Aid SA’s toll-free number 0800 110 110, weekdays from 7am to 7pm, or visit www.legal-aid.co.za