How voetstoots catches you out

The voetstoots clause remains a thorny issue for South Africans, and buyers and sellers alike still don't fully grasp its scope and implications, which could catch out unsuspecting home seekers.

According to the MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank, Lanice Steward, the clause has been a concern to homebuyers for as long as property has been bought and sold in South Africa.

Questions have recently been raised as to whether a buyer can specify certain items for exclusion from the voetstoots clause for specified periods, such as problems caused by subsidence, borer beetle or the future developments nearby.

Not wise

While this may be possible in theory, it would not be a wise move by a seller, unless that person was desperate to sell their home, as he or she would have no control over any conditions down the line. According to Steward, she's only seen this happen once or twice.

However, on a new home it is common practice to insist on certain guarantees for specified periods and most developers and builders give these.

Where the developer/builder is a member of the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC), the NHBRC is obliged to fund certain repairs if these occur within specified periods (e.g. within five years on the structure).

Vast levies

"The NHBRC will spend considerable time pressurising the builder to meet his obligations — and will usually delay in undertaking the repairs," said Steward. As a result, she added, to date the body has paid out very little in claims despite collecting "vast levies from their members".

As a buyer you must accept that on a second hand home, you will encounter regular problems as a result of normal wear and tear. These are particularly prevalent in geysers and old electrical networks.

Minor servitudes and municipal services can also be a problem to you if you're a new buyer, because in 95 percent of the cases the seller will not be aware of their position.

If as a new owner you embark on extensions and alterations, you may find that these are not allowed.

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