These are legal tips…

How to Dispute an Electricity Bill in South Africa

You never quite know when life is going to throw a curve ball your way: just when you think you are on top of things and all your admin is about to be taken care of, you come across a bill that simply doesn’t make sense. Your electricity reading seems to be very different from last month’s. The reason? There is an astronomical amount you allegedly owe. However, it’s an amount that you are 100% certain is inaccurate. Now, you are wondering how to dispute an electricity bill in South Africa?

Is this a regular occurrence? How often do South Africans get inaccurate municipal bill readings?

Sadly, it is quite common for residents and business owners across the country to receive erroneous electricity or water bills. Of course, we are not always just talking about a few odd rands: in 2015, a Gauteng resident was informed that he owes R1.2 million on his electricity bill, after a series of inaccurate and unauthorised installation of a smart meter; and in 2017 residents in Morningside, Johannesburg, were also confronted with a significantly higher-than-usual monthly reading, to name just a few.

What does the law say about the obligation of municipalities regarding the matter?

Since municipalities are responsible for basic service delivery, which includes the effective management of and correct billing and charges for water, electricity and sanitation, they are regulated by The Municipal System Act (no.32 of 2000). Remember, these services are basic human rights and protected by the highest law in the land, our Constitution.

“The same Act, section 102 (2), to be specific, states that citizens have the right to lodge a complaint should they want to dispute an inaccurate reading, irregular amount due and suspicious tariff increases,” explains Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal, LAW FOR ALL’s Managing Director.

Ok, so what’s the best way to dispute an electricity bill in South Africa?

This can be quite the process, but to get the best outcome, it’s advisable to write a formal letter to the manager of your municipality. Follow the these steps:

  1. Describe in as much detail as possible what the discrepancy on your account is, and provide evidence as well (for example, send two or three previous bills that can roughly determine and average amount you usually pay to compare it to the inaccurate bill in question)
  2. Be sure to include that you are aware of the fact that the municipality, by law, cannot shut your electricity off for “arrears” until the dispute has been settled.
  3. You must address the letter to the municipality manager and deliver it in person. Make sure you get a signed proof of receipt.
  4. As a back-up, email versions of the letter to the manager (and send an electronic copy to the municipality’s finance department as well).

From there, the municipality is meant to investigate the matter and provide you with a report of the breakdown of the correct account information.

“It’s worth noting that the municipality is not allowed to disconnect your electricity while the investigation into the disputed amount is under way. That said, be sure to keep up with the payment of your account as usual, because they are legally allowed to take action for any other payments that are in arrears,” advises Nagtegaal.

What are my options if I am not satisfied with the municipality’s findings?

Fear not – you haven’t reached a dead end: you can either seek legal action or approached the National Energy Regulator of SA (NERSA). The Electricity Regulation Act, 2006 (Act No. 4 of 2006) mandates NERSA, among other things, to resolve disputes between suppliers of electricity and their customers, as well as between suppliers themselves.

If you were not happy with the way your supplier handled your complaint, NERSA can help you.

How to prevent inaccurate electricity meter readings in South Africa.

If the event that you become suspicious of being overcharged or irregular charging, here are some tips to follow:

  • Double check that the meter number stipulated on the electricity bill matches the one on the actual meter on your property.
  • Take monthly photos of your meter readings to use as evidence if you need some back when disputing a suspicious amount.
  • Always contact your local municipal office immediately to raise the issue and ensure you receive a reference number for your query.
  • It might also be a good idea to install a prepaid meter so that you can track your electricity usage more closely.

 Do not leave your electricity bill unpaid (even while waiting for a dispute to be resolved)

Should you regularly skip payments and your account is in arrears, the municipality has the right (after giving a 14-day notice period) to disconnect your electricity, and should it persist, hand you over to lawyers and, ultimately, you could receive an adverse credit listing.

Keep the lights on!

No one wants to be left in the dark, when it comes to matters relating to basic services, so it is important to brush up on the processes you should follow, and what the law say about what a municipal department is and isn’t legally allowed to do.

We’ve Got Your Back!

LAW FOR ALL can provide legal advice and help write a letter to dispute the reading/charges. LAW FOR All’s mediators can also negotiate on the policyholders behalf. They will email, call, write letters and make follow ups until there is an outcome. If the matter is not resolved, the mediator can assist to refer the matter to NERSA, if need be. For more information on how LAW FOR ALL can become your friend in times of need and help you navigate life have a look at our policies here. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Car Modifications in South Africa

This is the moment: the car salesperson hands over the keys to your brand-new car, which is perfectly perched and wrapped in a bow. It’s certainly a snapshot worthy of an Instagram post, after all it’s your new baby. And much like having a new born, purchasing your first set of wheels is certainly a milestone worth celebrating. Naturally, you might view your new symbol of independence as an extension of yourself and want to spruce it up, making it your own and boosting its performance! But, whether you just make a few barely visible enhancements or go full out and “pimp” your ride, you still have to adhere to car modification laws in South Africa. So before you drop your suspension, park somewhere comfortable and read up to make sure you are on the right side of the law.

Your driver has arrived!

LAW FOR ALL is taking you on a journey of the dos and don’ts of car modifications and alterations in South Africa

Our first stop is finding out what exactly are considered car modifications. According to Arrive Alive, it “can be described as bringing about changes to the original vehicle parameter standards with a view, largely of enhancing a vehicle’s performance in fuel consumption, load capacity, cosmetic trim, or top speed runs”. Generally speaking, alterations wouldn’t necessarily affect the performance of the vehicle, whereas modifications would.

There are three main categories of trendy car modifications:

Aesthetic or visual makeovers

If those dramatic spray-painted flames on the sides of a car come to mind, you are on the right track. In addition to paint jobs and decorations, visual modifications can also include chrome rims, grilles and so-called “halo” headlights.  For the most part, these changes only affect the way the car looks and not the way it performs or potentially endangers other road users. Because of this, these alterations are generally seen as harmless.

Functional enhancements

Vehicle owners who are generally happy with their automobile’s performance, meaning they are not looking to increase the machine’s power, usually make functional enhancements for practical reasons.  For example, a farmer who has to navigate bumpy roads and rough terrain on their land might want to lift the suspension on their trusty bakkie to elevate the vehicle and avoid any damage to its bottom.  Car owners who want to give their vehicles a sportier look and feel might opt for bigger and wider tyres and drop the suspension slightly.

Performance modifications and enhancements

For those drivers who want to ramp up their vehicle’s engine power, speed and breaking abilities. Various enhancements such as installing turbo chargers or making use of Nitrous Oxide can drastically alter how fast a car can go. The big problem is that these performance modifications are likely to be illegal since they threaten the safety of the driver and other road users.

Hold on, let’s pull over for a second… how do I know which modification are illegal?

Excellent question. As Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal, LAW FOR ALL’s Managing Director,  points out, “ The National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 isn’t very specific about which modifications are indeed illegal or not. But, before you take your car in for an extreme makeover, you have to ask yourself it will still be roadworthy and if it might endanger other drivers”. Remember, if your vehicle ends up not being roadworthy, you will have to make the necessary changes and restore it so that it can legally be on the roads again and take it through a roadworthy test again- of course, this will also cost money.

You can check your planned car enhancements against Arrive Alive’s list of modifications that are likely illegal. These include,

  • Excessive speed enhancements (like Nitrous Oxide cylinders)

    car-modification-south-africa

    Image courtesy: www.motoringresearch.com

  • Lowering the suspension to the point where it affects the handling of the vehicle
  • Fitting larger wheels that might affect the steering and general control of the vehicle
  • DIY suspension changes that involve cutting springs or heating coils to lower the body of the vehicle

    suspension-cars-south-africa

    Image courtesy: Wheels24

  • Installing a bigger engine than the vehicle can handle and might affect the handling, ability to stop and increase the wear and tear of tyres.
  • Custom number plates that include symbols (such as %, &, @ or $) or vulgar and harmful language
  • Installing a sound system that might cause an illegal noise nuisance, which is defined as any noise that “may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person”.

    audio-modifcation-car

    Image courtesy: Richard Bailey

But, because the actual Act is quite vague, many traffic authorities often take liberties in enforcing it and could interpret any modifications that alter the car’s appearance so much that it doesn’t resemble the actual model anymore as illegal.

 “Bear in mind, if you make adjustments that affect the handling or the speed capabilities of your car, you could end up endangering your own life and potentially the lives of other road users. The could lead to fines, prison time, your vehicle being impounded or AARTO demerits -once implemented,” adds Nagtegaal.

Many car modifications are often implemented by those who participate in illegal drag racing in South Africa:

Ok, my understanding is back on track. Let’s hit the road again… what modifications would be legal?

Don’t worry, your freedom of expression hasn’t been written off! In addition to most of the aesthetic, decorative and functional elements mentioned earlier, there are other valid enhancements. “Valid modifications are those that involve the fitment of manufacturer approved accessories that do not affect the warranty of vehicles,” according to Wheels24.

Basically, they would have a positive impact on the fuel economy, function and safety of the vehicle.

 These include:

  • Better and improved tyres that will increase the safety of the vehicle.
  • Enhanced lighting that will increase visibility on the roads at night.
  • Certain window tints that block out the sun or help prevent smash-and- grabs.
  • Computer re-mapping to boost engine performance

You have reached your destination…

Our journey may have can to an end, but now it’s time for you to take your brand new car for a spin and think about how you are going to “pimp” your ride legally and responsibly.

We’ve got your back!

Remember, if you’ve been pulled over, arrested and not sure what to do, as a LAW FOR ALL policyholder, you have access to a 24-hr legal advice hotline.

Be sure to have a look at LAW FOR ALL’s comprehensive policies and sign up today!

DISCLAIMER

4 Things You Should Never Post on Social Media in South Africa

If you are one of the estimated 2.77 billion people on social media, and our headline grabbed your attention,  you might want to close a few apps and pay attention. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, are great platforms for you (or your business) to share thoughts, opinions and communicate with followers. But, as we’ve seen over the last few years, you simply cannot say whatever you want on social media. Our laws are getting increasingly stricter, and there are things you should never post on social media in South Africa.

We know what you’re thinking! What about freedom of speech and expression? The Constitution certainly protects your rights, but that doesn’t mean you can post everything you want. Not only could hateful, harmful or offensive posts lead to a backlash from followers, your account can also be suspended. There’s also a chance you could face real-life legal consequences, too.

New social media laws and regulations in South Africa


South Africans have to think before posting anything online, or face jail time and hefty fines. If the Cyber Crimes and Cyber Security Bill, and Prevention of Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill) are signed into law, it will become a criminal offence to spread harmful or bigoted messages online.

4 Things You Should Never Post on Social Media

posting pictures on Facebook can get you in trouble

  1. Negative comments about your boss, colleagues or place of work.

Certain aspects of work life make for the perfect social media post! Whether it’s an inspirational quote for #MondayMotivation or a “groupfie” with colleagues winding down on a Friday afternoon. Though, you can get fired or hit with a lawsuit for saying the wrong thing on social media. Keep in mind that some types of posts can potentially damage your employer’s reputation and break down your relationship. In one case, employees wrote defamatory remarks about their boss to each other on Facebook. And, because their Facebook privacy settings did not restrict access, the comments were open to the public. Subsequently, the employer hit the staff members with a defamation lawsuit.

Read More: Why Employees Need to be Careful on Social Media,

  1. Racist remarks or offensive or racially charged posts

Social networks are flooded with envy-inducing holiday snaps and photos of globetrotter living their best lives. But no South African should ever take a vacation from respecting other citizens’ rights by making offensive and racist statements. You’ve probably heard in the news about businessman Adam Catzavelos who’s facing prosecution (in South African and abroad) for sharing a video where he utters the offensive and racist “K-word” while holidaying on a Greek island. The infamous Penny Sparrow also comes to mind. Sparrow referred to Black beach-goers as “monkeys” in a Facebook post. The Umzinto Equality Court found Sparrow guilty of crimen injuria and ordered her to pay R150 000 to charity. The Bill calls for prison sentences (of up to 3 years, and up to 5 years for repeat offenders) or fines for anyone who commits a verbal or physical attack that is found to be racist or hateful.

  1. Sexually explicit photos or videos without someone’s consent

In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of so-called “revenge porn”, where scorned ex-lover’s posts revealing media of their ex online as payback. Some countries, such as Israel, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Japan have already made it a crime to distribute sexually explicit material without someone’s consent. Locally, we are also seeing similar incidents. A recent South African case involved a 13-year-old school girl in Pretoria who committed suicide after an explicit image of her was illegally shared on various school WhatsApp groups. That particular incident is still under investigation. The proposed punishment for posting “revenge porn” is up to 3 years behind bars or a substantial fine.

Do note: Minors sharing nudes of themselves online could be charged for sharing child pornography in South Africa.

  1. Threats of violence and encouragement to destroy property belonging to certain group

The Cybercrimes Bill also covers any social media posts or digital messages that call for people to damage the personal property belonging to a specific “group of persons”. Basically, that means you cannot target or threaten to harm anyone or their property based on their race, sex or gender.

social-media-south-africa

Take a moment and think before you share

“Make sure that any content you post isn’t offensive or potentially harmful in nature. Also, if you are in a position where you have to curate online content- like an Administrator on a Facebook group- be sure to look out for any inappropriate or offensive posts, or you could also be held liable for what’s shared amongst members, ” emphasises Adv. Jackie Nagtegaal, LAW FOR ALL’s Managing Director.

This really cannot be emphasised enough – you absolutely have to think and rethink before you post anything potentially controversial or explicitly harmful on social media platforms. You simply have to ask yourself if it is worth it. Once you weigh up the pros and cons, you will probably find that keeping some thoughts to yourself is the best option.

We’ve got your back!

LAW FOR ALL’s experienced lawyers can provide legal advice and guidance on various matters. LAW FOR ALL is your friend in the law, so if you are unsure about a social media post, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Be sure to have a look at LAW FOR ALL’s comprehensive policies. Sign up today!

DISCLAIMER

RDP Housing Scams : What to Look Out For

In 2018, Johanna Mamaila’s story made headlines across South Africa: the 50-year-old, who was living in an informal settlement in Mamelodi, was excited to move into her new RDP house. However, her dream soon turned into a nightmare when she discovered the house had also been bought by two other people. It soon came to light that Mamaila was scammed by a fraudulent property company, and it cost her R185 000.

Sadly, RDP housing scams are a growing trend in South Africa, and Mamaila is just one of thousands of innocent people who are being taken advantage of.

The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) was launched to better the lives of previously disadvantaged people by allocating tax money for housing development projects. It’s an initiative that seeks to help South Africans who were displaced during apartheid and force to live in townships on the outskirts of towns and cities. According to The Department of Housing, three million RDP houses have been built and delivered benefitting about 20 million people.

Of course, there is still a long road ahead and the scams together with logistical issues faced by the Government means more people are vulnerable to being conned. In Gauteng alone, it’s reported that there are over 500 000 units on the housing backlog and 30 000 cases of illegally sold RDP houses (the MEC for Housing also maintained that these figures are growing every year).

Essentially, scammers and criminals take advantage of the people desperate for houses and post fake internet advertisements selling RDP houses. What’s more, because those who receive RDP houses do not obtain title deeds immediately (this can take years), they are at risk of falling for a title deed scam. In 2018, the City of Ekurhuleni had to warn residents about an ongoing title deeds scam, which saw victims paying around R1600 for fake documents.

What to know about buying an RDP house:

  • In the event that you are offered an RDP house without the seller having the necessary documentation (title deed & permission), you should also report them to their local Housing Department and the Police.
  • Remember, someone wanting to sell their RDP home cannot do so in the first 8 years of occupancy, after which it must be offered to the State first
  • The seller must have written consent from the Department of Housing
  • Once a house is sold, a letter of authority from the deeds office must be attached to the sale agreement
  • There is no charge for title deeds.

If you suspect you are being scammed, you can contact the Department of Human Settlements:

  • Housing enquiries – toll free Customer service hotline – 0800 146 873 / 012 421 1915
  • Fraud hotline – 0800 204401

Of course, you can also approach the police, and open a criminal case.

We’ve got your back!

It is always essential to have a caring legal expert who can give legal advice and guide you through the process of opening a criminal case. LAW FOR ALL has affordable policy options that suit any budget. Join now.

DISCLAIMER

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 

Filing Tax Returns and Making the Most of Tax Season in South Africa

They say that nothing in this life is certain, except for dying and paying taxes. Yes, filing a tax return is one of the many inescapable (and sometimes nasty) realities of being a working adult. It’s a legal requirement and failing to file a tax return could land you in serious legal trouble. Though, with a bit of guidance, you can make the most of the 2019 tax season and put some much-needed cash back in your pocket.

As LAW FOR ALL’s tax specialist, Hanlie Brand, puts it “Many taxpayers get a bit overwhelmed by the whole tax filing process and end up skipping it altogether. Still, it’s worth it to take the time to get your affairs in order, so you won’t miss out on any of the funds SARS might owe you.”

So, to help you make the most of the 2019 tax season, and maximise your tax payout, LAW FOR ALL compiled a handy list of deductions that will help you save on your tax returns:

7 Deductions to Remember on your 2019 Tax Returns:

  1. Contributions to a pension, provident and retirement annuity fund

It pays to invest in your old age, and we’re not just talking about when you retire! Monthly contributions to pension, provident and retirement annuity funds are tax deductible. Subject to a yearly limit of R350 000, you may deduct up to 27.5% of your gross remuneration or taxable income (whichever is the higher).

  1. Medical aid contributions

You simply cannot afford to fall ill (quite literally) without having a medical aid. If you belong to a medical aid scheme, you qualify for a medical tax credit of R310 for you (the primary member) and the first dependent on your policy. There is also a further tax credit of R209 for every member after that.

  1. Donations to registered Public Benefit Organisations (PBO)

When it comes to tax returns, charity starts at home, right? If you donate up to 10% of your taxable income to public benefit organisations, you can claim a tax deduction on this donation. However, the PBO needs to be registered with SARS, and it must issue you a valid tax certificate for the contribution received.

  1. Travel allowances

If you have to travel often for work and your employer pays a travel allowance, you can get some cash back from SARS. Make sure you keep a detailed logbook of your trips and the costs involved otherwise SARS will reject your claim. At least there is some payback for the taxing times spent on the road!

  1. Commission-related Expenses

If you earn commission on top of a basic salary, that income will be coded as 3606 on your IRP5 form. If that amount makes up more than 50% of your total income, SARS will allow you to deduct all the costs you incurred to make a living from commission income.

  1. Business expenses if self-employed

Independent contractors, freelancers and sole proprietors, take note. Whether it’s stationery, telephone or employees’ costs, SARS will allow you to deduct all expenses related to making your income. Make sure you are very thorough when it comes to keeping all invoices and records of these expenses. It will pay off in the end!

  1. Tax-free investment accounts.

In March 2015, government introduced a tax -free investment product to encourage South Africans to save more money. With tax-free investments, investors can invest up to R33,000 per year with a lifetime limit of R500,000. This allows you to take advantage of the medium- to long-term benefits of compounding, without paying any tax on interest, dividends or capital gains tax (CGT).

tax-deductions

A final word of advice: Make the tax season less…taxing!

  “Submit your tax return on time to avoid unnecessary penalties and interest. Make a note of the deadline for filing returns, otherwise, you could face penalties,” warns Brand. Tax filing season starts for all taxpayers on August 1, 2019. Those registered for eFiling can file returns from July 1, 2019. 

We’ve got your back!

LAW FOR ALL offers all Platinum Plus policyholders assistance with filing their taxes, so if all this seems intimidating, it’s best to have a tax professional on your side. Be sure to have a look at LAW FOR ALL’s comprehensive policies. Sign up today!

DISCLAIMER

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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.
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