South Africa’s new Consumer Protection Act comes into effect on 1 April 2011. This law fundamentally changes the way business is done in South Africa. The law regulates the way businesses market their products and services and makes South African consumers among the most protected in the world.
Three important changes relating to Real Estate transactions are introduced with the CPA.
Firstly the Act introduces a bill of rights, granting consumers the right to cancel certain contracts within a “Cooling-off” period of five business days.
Secondly, the Act changes the way the voetstoots clause will be applied in Real Estate contracts.
The third is about how the CPA effects the Letting of property. This one will be covered in Part 2 of this post.
In terms of the Act, a Purchaser that purchases a property as a result of direct marketing has the right to cancel the sale within five business days, the “cooling-off” period. This applies only to sales that result from direct marketing. The “cooling-off” period does not apply to sales that result from any other form of marketing such as show houses and conventional print advertising. Nor does it apply to any purchase made by a client that the agent is already working with. Transactions that arise from these forms of marketing are excluded from the “cooling-off” provisions of the Consumer Protection Act.
The start of this 5-day “cooling-off” period is the date of delivery of the goods to the Purchaser. In Real Estate terms this means, not the date of signature of the contract, but the date of transfer of the property into the Buyers name. Transfer generally takes place three to six months after signature of the Offer to Purchase. Obviously cancellation after a delay of these proportions will be problematic for all the parties involved. However, this provision is as yet untested in law and it remains to be seen how it will be interpreted by the courts.
In South African Property Law, in terms of Section 29a of the Alienation of Land Act, property transactions of less than R250 000 are subject to a “cooling-off” period of five days, calculated from the date of signature of the Offer to Purchase. This provision remains in place and is not effected by the new Act.
Voetstoots is a term derived from Roman Dutch Law which means literally “as is”. Prior to the introduction of the Consumer Protection Act, all property was sold voetstoots. However, the new Act changes this.
From 1 April 2011, developers, speculators, and investors with property portfolios who sell property in their ordinary course of business, cannot exclude their liability for defects by way of a voetstoots clause.
However, an ordinary once-off seller, who does not sell property in the ordinary course of business, may continue to rely on the protection of the voetstoots clause for the simple reason that the sale of this property does not fall with the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act, as detailed above.
Part 2 of this post takes a look at how Lease Agreements will be effected by the CPA.