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Karien Hunter

Karien Hunter

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Friday, 10 February 2012 08:50


The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines marketing as "the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably".
Sellers and buyers alike are 'consumers' of estate agency services.


The target market of the services of estate agents is buyers and sellers of property.

When it markets its services to sellers, it does so with the view to securing a mandate to sell a property.

When an Multi-Listing estate agent markets a Multi-Listing Mandate, it does so on the basis that a such Mandate will be beneficial to the seller in procuring interested buyers and implicit in this is that they will deal with a select group of experienced and reputable estate agents to the exclusion of others, and that the property will sell at a market related price.

When it markets its services to buyers, it does so with the view to securing offers to purchase which are market related in relation to properties on their books, having regard to the actual condition of such properties, which offers it can then present to sellers.


The marketing of an estate agent's services and the marketing of the properties listed with estate agents pursuant to the mandates that have been signed, are inextricably linked.

It is implicit that estate agents would provide potential buyers with reliable, honest and accurate information in relation to the properties it advertises and markets, and its services in relation thereto.

Every advertisement of a property in respect of which an agency has a mandate, carries the name and logo of the estate agency concerned, and will also often contain a reference to the website of the estate agency.

An estate agency professes to be an area expert of the properties on their books, and market assessments are carried out by agencies within a particular area on that basis.

In order to find a 'willing and able' buyer for a property, the property must be correctly priced.

In order for an agent to correctly price a property, an agent must conduct a thorough inspection of the property, and familiarise him or herself with every aspect of the property – including any defects the property might have as it may affect the price and it may influence the buyer in putting in an offer.


If an estate agency fails to conduct a thorough inspection of a property, and markets a property at a certain price in circumstances where it later turns out that there were major undisclosed defects to the property which were easily determinable by a qualified and experienced agent, the estate agency will most certainly be exposed to potential claims from the buyer – such claim will not be based on any contract with the estate agent (or the sale agreement itself), but it will be based on the estate agency's failure to adhere to the standard of conduct which it professes to uphold (and which the market demands) in relation to the delivery of its services as an estate agent.

The seller of the property may still enjoy the protection of the 'voetstoots' clause in the sale agreement as the seller is not bound to the CPA – and this may leave the estate agency concerned wide open to potential claims from a dissatisfied buyer where no effort was made to check for defects.


The so-called Seller's Declaration protects the estate agent against potential claims, in the following manner:

  1. The market assessment by the agent is now based on accurate information and no misrepresentation is made with regard to the inherent value of a particular property;
  2. The seller is forced to apply his or her mind to the condition of their property, and to disclose any defects they may be aware of to the agent, prior to the marketing of the property, or the marketing of the estate agency's services in relation to that or other properties;
  3. The agent will ensure that their marketing and advertising activities are aligned to the actual condition of the property and that defects are either attended to prior to the sale taking place, or that the purchaser takes possession of the property, well knowing the condition of the property which they are buying.
  4. It shows that the agent has taken reasonable care to ensure that it fulfils the expectation that was created in the market place, namely that it would provide a professional service;
  5. It creates an atmosphere of transparency and buyers know exactly what they are buying;
  6. The number of disputes arising from sale transactions are significantly reduced as it facilitates the resolution of disputes  - both parties have a much clearer understanding of what was bought and sold;
  7. It protects both the listing agent and the selling agent as there is now a very clear description of the property and what may be excluded or  included in the sale – sellers often (mistakenly) assume that information that was given to the listing agent has been passed on the selling agent.

A buyer should not succeed in any claim against the agent on the basis of false or misleading marketing or advertising where an agency has disclosed all defects they were aware of, or could reasonably have become aware of, prior to a sale taking place.
The relevant provisions of the CPA are as follows:

Consumers right to fair and responsible marketing:

General standards for marketing of goods or services

29. A producer, importer, distributor, retailer or service provider must not market any goods or services.

  1. In a manner that is reasonably likely to imply a false or misleading representation concerning those goods or services, as contemplated in section 41; or
  2. in a manner that is misleading, fraudulent or deceptive in any way, including in respect of—
  1. the nature, properties, advantages or uses of the goods or services;
  2. the manner in or conditions on which those goods or services may be supplied;
  3. the price at which the goods may be supplied, or the existence of, or relationship of the price to, any previous price or  competitor’s price for comparable or similar goods or services;
  4. the sponsoring of any event; or
  5. any other material aspect of the goods or services

Consumers right to fair and honest dealing:

False, misleading or deceptive representations

41(1) In relation to the marketing of any goods or services, the supplier must not, by words or conduct
           (a) directly or indirectly express or imply a false, misleading or deceptive representation concerning a
                 material fact to a consumer,

45(b) use exaggeration, innuendo or ambiguity as to a material fact, or fail to disclose a material fact if that
           failure amounts to a deception, or

        c) fail to correct an apparent misapprehension on the part of a consumer, amounting to a false, misleading
            or deceptive representation, or permit or require any other person to do so on behalf of the supplier.

(3) Without limiting the generality of subsections (1) and (2),  it is a false, misleading or deceptive representation
    to falsely state or imply, or fail to correct an apparent misapprehension on the part of a consumer to the effect,

      c) any land or other immovable property

         i) has characteristics that it does not have;

        ii) may lawfully be used, or is capable of being used, for a purpose that is in fact unlawful or
           impracticable, or

        iii) has or is proximate to any facilities, amenities or natural features that it does not have, or that are not
              available or proximate to it.

Friday, 25 February 2011 07:12

Mandate agreements need to comply with the requirements of the CPA in the following respects:

  • Mandate agreements must be drafted in plain and understandable language (the plain language provisions In the Act). It is advisable to have mandate agreements available in a language which is best understood by a consumer. For example, in Kwa-Zulu Natal mandate agreements should also be available in isi-Zulu, and in the Western Cape, Afrikaans;
  • Mandate agreements must not contain terms that are unnecessarily onerous on the seller - the court or the Consumer Tribunal will have the power to vary or strike out terms that are unfair, unreasonable or unjust and agents may find it difficult to claim commission based on such mandates, or may find their commission reduced by the court or Consumer Tribunal;
  • In terms of the Act, agreements must be interpreted to the benefit of the consumer, especially where an agreement contains an ambiguity, restriction or limitation and estate agents can no longer rely on the onerous conditions contained in their existing mandates. Agents may find that the courts will make a value judgment and not uphold or enforce commission claims where such claim is based on mandate agreements which contain wording that can be regarded as unconscionable or unfair, or where a consumer (seller) did not fully understand the meaning of a mandate agreement signed by him.

To get a copy of the mandate please contact the author.

Friday, 12 November 2010 06:28
The purchase and sale of property in South Africa is governed in terms of our common law.

In terms of our common law, any person with full legal capacity may enter into contracts in South Africa unhindered, and this is actually done on a daily basis - be it the foreign tourist who books accommodation or a flight, or purchases a souvenir, a car or a property, or an off-shore company wishing to conduct business in South Africa and entering into a contract for the purchase of South African goods.

If you receive an offer to purchase from a foreigner (i.e. non-resident) you may use your standard sale agreement and generally speaking, the agreement will be as binding as any contract concluded between two South African residents provided the non-resident had full legal capacity to conclude such contract.

Legal Capacity to enter into a sale agreement for land

The only difference in relation to property transfers is the provisions of the Matrimonial Property Act which determines the legal capacity of parties married in or out of community to enter into contracts for the sale of land.

For example, in terms of South African law, a minor, that is a person under the age of 18, would have to be assisted by his or her legal guardian in order to conclude a valid contract, and parties married in community of property will not be able to purchase property without the assistance of the other spouse in terms of the provisions of the Matrimonial Property Act.

Our Matrimonial Property Act does not however apply in respect of foreign marriages and the legal regime that determines the legal capacity of such person to conclude a contract for the sale of land, is determined by the laws of the country where such person was domiciled (living) at the time of the marriage.

The law of such other country will determine if such foreigner has the necessary legal capacity to enter into a contract for the purchase and sale of land in South Africa with or without the assistance of their spouse.

In terms of say Zimbabwean law, parties are generally able to conclude agreements for the purchase of land without the assistance of the other spouse and the same applies in respect of marriages concluded in the United Kingdom.

However, our courts and our Deeds Office cannot take cognisance of or apply foreign law as they would South African law.

The Deeds Office will thus not accept documentation signed by a person who was married in terms of foreign law unless the spouse of that person has consented to such sale and/or is a party to that transaction.

This means that you may have a perfectly valid sale agreement (depending on the marital status of the signatories in terms of their country of origin) but be unable to enforce it.


A valid contract of sale does not in itself confer ownership of land, nor does it provide security for payment of a bond - transfer of ownership pursuant to a valid sale must take place in the Deeds Office.

In terms of our Deeds Office regulations, the Deeds Office requires both spouses to sign all transfer documents in order to pass ownership - regardless of whether or not the sale agreement required the signature of only one or both spouses.

The Deeds Office will not take cognisance of the provisions of foreign law and many sales come unstuck by virtue of this provision where for example, spouses are estranged and cannot be contacted.

The only way around it would be a declaration from the Embassy of such country setting out and confirming that the spouse would not require the assistance of the other spouse.

The transferring attorney's requirements in order to effect transfer would be similar to that of a transfer to a South African resident, except that both spouses would have to sign the conveyancing documentation.

The following documents would be required:

  • a certified copy of the Purchasers’ passport;
  • a certified copy of their work permit and temporary residency (if applicable);
  • a certified copy of proof of residence and South African income tax number (only if applicable).

Estate agents should thus ensure that sale agreements are signed by both spouses in the event of a foreign marriage - this applies regardless of whether or not the person is a resident or non-resident.


Make enquiries with your foreign buyer and establish up front if you are going to run into any problems - if so, your foreign buyer can purchase the property through a South African registered company in which event spousal consent would not be required.


South African exchange control regulations determine the extent to which non-residents can borrow money locally to fund the purchase.

Non-resident purchaser who does not work in South Africa

A non-resident purchaser will not be allowed to borrow more than 50% of the purchase price to fund the purchase. The balance must be paid in cash and this may be cash generated in South Africa, or off shore funding.

Non-resident purchaser who is on a termporary work permit in South Africa

A person working in South Africa, and who has a temporary work permit, may borrow more than 50% of the purchase price, and the amount of the loan will depend on the bank’s criteria. A condition of the loan will however be that the purchaser reduces the bond to less than 50% of the registered amount before they return abroad.

Some banks may require a work permit of at least 4 years before they would consider a bond for more than 50% of the purchase price.

The banks generally will require the following documentation to consider a non-resident for bond approval:

  • a certified copy of the passport;
  • 3 months overseas bank statements;
  • 3 months payslips (6 months statements and payslips where the Purchaser earns Commission or is paid overtime).


Foreign Exchange and Banking regulations have now been amended with regard to the investments of funds for non-residents pending transfer. Conveyancers are no longer able to invest money in a Sec78(2A) account to earn interest for the benefit of the non-resident purchaser and such investments can only be made for people with SA identity documents.

This must be taken into consideration and the standard clause dealing with the investment of the deposit in an interest-bearing account for the benefit of a purchaser must be deleted - the funds will simply be held in trust pending transfer, with no interest accruing to the non-resident purchaser.


Once a foreigner has introduced cash into the country with a view to purchasing a property, he can repatriate it (together with the profits thereon) provided he has brought the funds through the proper channels when it was first introduced to the country.

The following documentation should be retained by such non-resident purchaser to avoid delays with the repatriation of the funds on resale:

  • proper proof must be kept by the foreign purchaser of the origin of the purchasing funds, including statements on the foreign transferring account as well as the receiving conveyancer’s bank statements;
  • a copy of the original sale agreement.

Upon the eventual onward sale of the property, application will be made for Exchange Control Approval for the repatriation of the funds, supported by the following documents in addition to the documents as set out above:

  • sale agreement (onward sale);
  • conveyancers final statement of account reflecting calculation of the sale proceeds;
  • foreign bank account information;
  • ID and proof of residence of non-resident.


Conveyancing documents must be signed before either a notary public of the country where the person resides, or at the South African Consulate or Embassy in such country.

This can be a time consuming and expensive exercise which is governed in terms of international law. (The Hague Convention).

It is cheaper to sign such documents with the South African Embassy in say London but an appointments needs to be made to do so and this can take up valuable time.
Monday, 25 October 2010 13:40

The implementation of the Consumer Protection Act has been postponed to the 1st of April 2011 as the Minister of Trade and Industry is still in the process of finalising the regulations to the Act.  They are also putting in place the structures required to implement the Act, namely the Consumer Commission and the Consumer Tribunal which will deal with complaints and disputes.

The Consumer Protection Act brings about a fundamental change to our common law which up to now has regulated contracts concluded between suppliers and consumers.  It also deals with the protection of consumers in general.

It has created basic 'Consumer Rights' - such as the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of for example sex or race in the conclusion of contracts, and outlaws 'unconscionable conduct' on the part of a supplier of goods or services and protects consumers against unfair or misleading marketing practices.

Estate agents will be well advised to familiarise themselves with the provisions of the Act as they will now also have a legal duty of care towards buyers in addition to their duty in terms  their mandate to their sellers.

In terms of the Consumer Protection Act, an estate agent must ensure that his or her marketing of a product (i.e. the property to be sold) ties up with the actual nature and quality of the property that is sold.  The days of 'Sales Talk' is over and if an agent is aware of a defect or potential problem with a property, they would be duty bound to bring this to the attention of the buyer, failing which they may face a claim against their agency by virtue of their false or misleading conduct. 

By way of example, if an estate agent makes a statement to the effect that a property is zoned commercial when this is not the case, and if this has a material effect on the value of the property purchased, the buyer may well in terms of the CPA have grounds to claim the difference between the purchase price paid and the actual market value of the property from the agent.

It is thus critical that estate agents make themselves fully acquainted with the nature and extent of a property, and of defects which are reasonably foreseeable before they take a property on their books.  It may also be a good idea to obtain an indemnity from a seller to protect the agent against sellers who may not have made a full disclosure to them at the time that the property is listed with the agency and the mandate is signed.

Estate agents should also review their mandates with sellers to make sure the terms thereof are just and fair, if not, they may have difficulty enforcing commission claims.