These are legal tips…

Free Legal Document – Living Will

A living will is a valuable document that helps your family and physician make medical decisions on your behalf when you are too physically ill or mentally impaired to do so yourself.

Download our FREE template and fill in the necessary details. Bear in mind, family members, beneficiaries, trustees or the executor of your last will and testament cannot sign as witness.

Download your Free Legal Contract here.

A Basic Guide to Renting a Home in South Africa

For many young professionals, renting a house or an apartment is one of the first big steps in their lives. Of course, it can be a lengthy and complicated process: from searching for and viewing properties, to signing lease agreements and other documents. It’s always best to conduct thorough research and ensure all the legal boxes are ticked.

Good news for prospective tenants is that the law protects their rights in the form of The Rental Housing Act, which regulates the relationship between landlords (people who own property) and their tenants (people who rent property). The law also gives tenants a place to turn to, if they are mistreated by their landlords, known as the Rental Housing Tribunal.

In this basic guide, we take a closer a look at some of the most important aspects tenants need to bear in mind when renting a home in South Africa.

Ask for a Lease Agreement in Writing.

While verbal agreements are legally binding, it’s always best to obtain a lease agreement in writing, which is then signed by everyone involved. It is recommended to ask for a written agreement that clearly sets out all the terms and conditions as well as the rights and responsibilities of the tenant and the landlord. Things that have to be agreed on include what property will be rented, the rent amount, additional charges, increases, payment dates, the manner of payment, etc.

The law says that if a tenant requests a written lease, the landlord must provide one. A rental contract usually contains standard clauses, and while the law does protect the tenant from unfair or illegal conditions in the agreement, it’s smart to read the document thoroughly before signing.

You can download a free lease agreement here.

You’ll probably have to pay a deposit.

If you have rented a home before, you know that you’ll probably be asked to pay a deposit of 1 to 2 months of rent before moving into the property. The deposit covers the landlord for the repairs that are necessary to fix damage to the property when the tenant moves out. Repair costs are then deducted from the deposit and the balance paid back to the tenant within 14 days of repair. If the tenant doesn’t attend the outgoing inspection, the balance only has to be paid back within 21 days.

Keep in mind that the landlord is required to keep the deposit in an interest-bearing account for the duration of the lease. When the agreement comes to an end, and the tenant hasn’t caused any damage, the landlord must pay back the deposit (in full with the accrued interest) within 7 days of the lease agreement ending.

Remember to inspect the property before moving in and when moving out.

Doing an incoming and outgoing inspection of the property is very important! Aside from being a legal requirement, it is a good idea to create a record of any existing damage to the property before moving in, and a record of new defects when moving out.

Both inspections must be carried out together by the landlord and the tenant so that everyone is on the same page. If the tenant doesn’t show up for either inspection appointment, he or she cant challenge the repair costs that will be deducted from the deposit when moving out. If the landlord is a no-show, he or she can’t claim repairs and deduct the cost from the deposit.

It’s essential to walk through the property and document every flaw using a checklist and by taking pictures. The document must be signed by the landlord and the tenant.

Know what maintenance is your responsibility.

Tenants usually want a neat property to live in, while landlords wish their property to be well looked after. When it comes to maintenance and repairs, it is important to know who is responsible. The landlord must ensure that the property is safe and habitable. If a tenant informs the landlord that maintenance repairs are necessary, the repairs must be done within 14 days of being asked unless otherwise agreed with the tenant.

As a rule of thumb, the landlord is responsible for fair wear and tear as well as maintenance of structural fixtures and fittings such as fixing roof leaks, replacing a geyser, or fixing plumbing and electrical problems. Of course, that’s to say, if the damage wasn’t deliberately or negligently caused by the tenant,  in which case it is the tenant’s responsibility.

The tenant, on the other hand, is responsible for keeping the property clean, tidy and safe and must reasonably use electric and plumbing systems. The tenant is usually responsible for normal wear and will need to replace light globes, taps, locks, handles, broken windows, and maintain the garden.

You Can’t Withhold Rent if you are Unhappy

If the landlord doesn’t play fair and isn’t sticking to the agreed terms and conditions, withholding rent might seem like the only option and perhaps even fair. But, sometimes tenants use this as an excuse because they can’t pay their monthly rent. Even if the landlord is in the wrong and the tenant can’t make the most of living in the property, withholding rent can be seen as a breach of contract and isn’t usually the best way to resolve a dispute.

If the landlord isn’t maintaining the property, for example, it’s better to start off pointing out the obligation to the landlord and insisting on repairs in writing. If the landlord ignores the tenant, the tenant can approach the Rental Housing Tribunal or a court to resolve the dispute. Depending on the specific circumstances, the tenant can possibly cancel the contract, claim damages, or even do the necessary maintenance and deduct a reasonable amount from the rent.

Early Cancellation depends on the Contract

A rental agreement is usually for a fixed period (for example 24 months), but the contract can be cancelled before the end date of the agreement. If a tenant wants to end a lease early, he or she can only do so if the landlord rents out the property in the ordinary course of its business (as the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) applies) or if the contract has a clause that allows explicitly for early cancellation. If the CPA applies, at least 20 business days’ notice is required, and the tenant will have to pay a reasonable penalty, as well any outstanding rent and utilities. Keep in mind that this can’t be deducted from the deposit kept by the landlord.

If the cancellation is based on the breach, the tenant must usually give the landlord an opportunity to fix the situation within a specific period, and if he or she still doesn’t comply, can proceed to cancel the agreement. The landlord can also cancel the agreement if the tenant is in breach.

Approach the Rental Housing Tribunal to Resolve Disputes

The first plan of action should be approaching the landlord and putting the complaint in writing. If the landlord ignores the complaint or doesn’t resolve the issue to the tenant’s satisfaction, the tenant can approach the Rental Housing Tribunal. The Tribunal resolves complaints through processes such as mediation and arbitration; and offers advice on issues related to residential leases and rentals. Not only does the Tribunal have the power to summon both the tenant and landlord to a hearing, but its rulings also have the same effect as that made by a Magistrates Court.

We’ve Got Your Back!

There are many legal ins and outs of renting a home in South Africa, so having access to a lawyer to answer any questions you may have, or to guide you through a dispute can give you extra peace of mind. Be sure to look at LAW FOR ALL’s policy options for more information.


DISCLAIMER

Legal Aid Versus Legal Insurance Cover

Whether it’s through our own fault or as a result of someone else’s negligence, an encounter with the law is inevitable for most of us. And while every case is different, it usually causes a lot of stress and anxiety and can be quite the financial burden as well.  

The fact is, the law is notoriously inaccessible in our country and most South Africans cannot afford the services of a top lawyer. With the unemployment rate just under 28%, it is easy to see why the law is unaffordable for many. This is where legal aid and legal cover come into play. We take a look at both and explain what the biggest differences are. 

What is Legal Aid?

Because our Constitution stipulates that access to justice is a right for all South Africans, it mandates that Legal Aid South Africa must help the poor with tax-funded legal assistance, and they determine whether or not someone qualifies for free legal assistance by using “The Means Test”, which essentially looks at what someone earns to ascertain if they will take on a case or not.  

Legal Aid for individuals and households.

If you are employed, you must earn less than R5,500 per month after tax has been deducted. 

If you live with other people for more than 4 nights per week, and these other people share in the cost of food and other costs, then Legal Aid will look at your total household income. They will only give legal aid to households that earn less than R6,000 per month. Again, Legal Aid will only look at the amount that the household receives after tax has been taken off. 

But while “legal aid” is a reasonably known term, not many South Africans are familiar with legal insurance cover, which, depending on the company you choose, comes with various benefits.  

Legal Insurance Cover in South Africa.

Many people take out various insurance policies- car, household etc.- to cover them in case anything that can put added financial strain on them happens. Unfortunately, legal insurance cover isn’t top of mind for most, and an unexpected run-in with the law can be devastating for many South Africans.   

In a nutshell, legal insurance cover is a specialised insurance product that covers the fees and expenses involved in legal disputes for a monthly premium. After signing up for a legal insurance policy, a client will be able to contact a lawyer for unlimited legal advice (telephonically or face-to-face) related to civil, family, labour, or criminal matters. Most policies also cover the costs of having a lawyer represent the client in court (litigation) or out of court (mediation).  

LAW FOR ALL’s legal insurance cover policies offer clients real value for money. Our monthly premiums won’t break the bank and range from R109- R239 per month, providing litigation cover of between R110 000 – R240 000 per year (depending on the policy, of course). What’s more, policies protect the whole family – spouses and children – giving added peace of mind. What’s more, policyholders receive access to a 24hr emergency line, unlimited legal advice, negotiation and legal assistance. Of course, LAW FOR ALL also represents clients should they need to go to court. 

For a comprehensive look at that ins and outs of LAW FOR ALL’s legal insurance cover benefits, take a look at Why Legal Cover is Essential. 

Don’t feel powerless!

South Africans should not feel powerless and excluded from the justice system. There are free and affordable options for legal representation, and it is incredibly important to know what your rights are and that someone can help you fight for them. Get the law on your side! View our affordable policies.

 

DISCLAIMER

 

 

The Hidden Costs of Buying a House in South Africa

The hidden costs of buying a house in South Africa can take many potential homeowners by surprise, and often thwart the entire purchase. So, it goes without saying that doing additional research and knowledge is vital before putting in an offer to purchase property in South Africa.  

Property experts estimate that the hidden costs of buying a house can result in an additional 10% onto the stipulated purchase price. What’s more, many people usually don’t know that seeking the help of a lawyer could be very beneficial and result in the saving of some hard-earned cash (more on that later). Essentially, it is all about being clued up and acquiring a sense of buyer confidence that will serve you well in the long run.  

Research all of the “hidden” administrative costs

First-time home buyers might not know that the price mentioned on the property advertisement isn’t the full amount required to own property legally. There are a variety of administrative fees that need to be considered. These are usually: the deposit, transfer duty tax, transfer attorney costs, bond attorney costs and bond administration fees.  

Let’s take a closer look:  

 A deposit – is an amount you should’ve saved up for as an initial payment for your home. It’s doubtful that a financial lending institution or bank will grant a 100% bond, so it is best to start saving ASAP. Do note: the deposit isn’t considered as part of the 10% of hidden costs, but it is worth taking into account.   

The transfer duty tax – is a government tax levied to transfer property from the seller to the buyer’s name.  This amount is calculated using a table created by The South African Revenue Services. There is no transfer duty on properties under R900000.  

Transfer attorney costs – are the legal fees due to the conveyancers who transfer the ownership of the property into your name. These will also include fees for the Deeds Office registration, postage and disbursements charged by the conveyancers.  

Bond attorney costs – due to the attorneys who handle the registration of your bond and includes postage and disbursements incurred.  

Bond initiation and administration fees – these are costs charged by the lending institution for the initiation and ongoing administration of the bond.  

Conduct a detailed check for any structural issues

While sellers are obligated to submit a report on all the structural problems the property might have, it is best to conduct your own inspection by enlisting the help of a construction expert. To avoid any legal and financial headaches regarding leaks, cracks, mould etc., make sure the report is in writing and signed. It might be worth getting an attorney to sign it as well.   

Purchasing an apartment in a complex

If you are buying a flat in a building complex, be sure to contact the body corporate and get as much information as possible. Specifically, request a copy of the building’s latest financial report to see what the body corporate spends money on and ask for an update on any special levies because, unless otherwise specified, construction alterations will have to come out of your pocket.  

Get LAW FOR ALL on your side

LAW FOR ALL offers discounted transfer fees, ranging from 35% to 60% depending on which policy you take out. To get in touch, feel free to contact us telephonically or pop into any of our nationwide offices. 

 
DISCLAIMER 

Drinking at Office Parties: How to Navigate Year-End Functions

It’s frightening but real: the end of the year is just around the corner, and while employees are hard at work chasing final deadlines, employers are finalising plans for an unforgettable year-end function. It’s a time to reflect on the year, celebrate achievements and say thank you to the people who make valuable contributions to the company.   

Of course, a year-end function is a festive affair and usually includes good food and alcoholic beverages. But those drinks can be responsible for a few headaches, and we’re not just talking about hangovers.   

Irresponsible consumption of alcohol at a work party can cause trouble for both employers and employees. Employees need to comply with the general conduct requirements of the company and employers need to ensure they clarify that company rules and policies still apply, even though they are relaxed somewhat.    

How employers should prepare for year-end functions

For starters, it’s essential for employers to understand that they can legally be held liable for any questionable or destructive behaviour from their employees. Additionally, this can cause irreparable harm to the company’s reputation and could sour internal working relationships. 

Employers should… 

  • Make it clear to employees that they still have to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully, and that they have to consume alcohol responsibly, whether they are at the office or outside the office and representing the company; 
  • Limit the number of alcohol beverages for each employee- drinking vouchers or tickets are a good way of managing this. Also, inform the bar and waiters to refuse serving alcohol to intoxicated employees. 
  • Clarify that employees could be asked to leave a venue if their behaviour is inappropriate; 
  • Remind employees that they could face disciplinary action for misconduct; 
  • Provide transport to and from the function and encourage employees to make use of public transportation when they are dropped off at the office after the party; 
  • Require employees to sign a document that clearly states they will be liable for any damage they might cause at the year-end function.
  • Ensure managers understand company policies around alcohol and substance abuse and step in when staff act out of line. Inappropriate or even criminal behaviour can range from damaging property to sexual harassment.  

What employees need to keep in mind about year-end functions

As mentioned previously, a year-end function is meant to be a chance for employees to let their hair down and have a merry time- all within reason, of course. While some of the rules and regulations of the workplace are relaxed; they are not entirely suspended. Alcohol consumption is usually not tolerated at work, and even the slightest over-indulgence can lead to some problematic behaviour that could have immediate and lasting consequences. 

Employees should… 

  • Drink responsibly at the year-end function and perhaps ask a colleague to keep an eye on them (although, the responsibility falls solely on the individual);
  • Eat enough food and drink lots of water to minimise the effects of alcohol – even if they are only having two drinks;
  • Bear in mind that should they get out of hand and become destructive, they could face disciplinary action, be dismissed from their job and legally held liable for any damage caused;
  • Not drink and drive, if they have decided not to make use of the transport offered by the company;
  • Realise that being fired as a result of being too intoxicated could affect their chances of getting a new job; and
  • Consider that even the slightest misconduct could have a lasting effect, i.e. someone in a management position acting irresponsibly might not be taken seriously by their team when they are back in the office.

It’s up to both employers and employees to ensure that a year-end function doesn’t get out of control and devolve into a situation that negatively impacts the company and colleagues. Celebrate in such a way that it highlights all the achievements of the year and inspires you to return to the office with a positive attitude.  

We’ve Got Your Back!

Remember, if you somehow do find yourself directly or indirectly implicated in a disciplinary hearing regarding drinking at a year-end function and you feel you could be facing an unfair dismissal, make sure you have a caring legal expert on your side. Have a look at LAW FOR ALL’s policies for more information.   

 

DISCLAIMER 

Free Legal Contract – Offer to Purchase a Vehicle

This is a written contract that sets out the terms and conditions of the sale of a used vehicle, that is sold privately and not through a dealership.
Download your Free Legal Contract here.

Free Legal Contract – Offer to Purchase a House

This is a written contract that sets out the terms and conditions of the sale of a house (immovable property). Especially where the sale is private and not through an estate agent.
Download your Free Legal Contract here.

Free Legal Contract – Non-disclosure Agreement

This is a written contract that protects confidentiality between two parties who are entering into a Service Level Agreement. This contract is usually signed before entering into the Service Level Agreement.  It is especially valuable in business ventures.
Download your Free Legal Contract here.

Free Legal Contract – Residential Lease Agreement

This is a written contract that sets out the terms and conditions between the Landlord and Tenant of a residential property. This contract is helpful where the lease is private and not done through an agent.
Download your Free Legal Contract here.

Free Legal Contract – General Power of Attorney

A written document where one person known as a principal, appoints and authorises another, known as an agent, to generally conduct affairs on its behalf.
Download your Free Legal Contract here.

Free Legal Contract – Contract of Employment (Domestic Worker)

This is a free legal contract between an Employer and Domestic Worker, setting out the rights and obligations of both. It is consistent with our employment laws and helps to foster a good work relationship based on fairness.
Download your Free Legal Contract here.

Free Legal Contract – Cohabitation Agreement

This is a written agreement used by an unmarried couple who are in a long-term relationship. This agreement protects their rights and sets out their obligations, it also regulates various aspects such as their living expenses, property, maintenance etc. It definitely comes in handy should the couple decide to end the relationship.
Download your Free Legal Contract here.

Free Legal Contract – Acknowledgement of Debt

This type of agreement is useful when one person owes another an amount of money. It indicates how the debt will be repaid.  If the debtor doesn’t pay what is owed, it makes it easier for the creditor to prove their claim in court.
Download your Free Legal Contract here.