The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy, and the time of maximum optimism is the best time to sell” (Sir John Templeton, billionaire investor)
You are it seems in good company if you view times of depressed property prices and general uncertainty as a great buying opportunity.
Just be aware that if it is a house you are after, whether as an investment or to live in, you should do your homework if the property is (or might be) occupied. Generally speaking, buying a property with occupiers is fine if you know about them and have a binding deal in place with them (see the end of this article for more on that).
But, as a recent High Court decision of Pure Capital Property Trading CC v Hanslo and Others (15217/2018)  ZAWCHC 137 illustrates, if you aren’t aware of occupiers and/or don’t have a proper agreement in place with them, you could find yourself unable to evict them even if you buy the property “free of lease”.
Before we discuss the case itself, it is important to know that to get an eviction order from a court, you need to prove in terms of PIE (the Prevention of Illegal Eviction From and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act) both –
The Bo-Kaap flat, the sale in execution, and the occupiers
Again, the lack of information as to the occupiers was relevant, and the Court’s comments on the particular facts of this matter are worth noting in full (our emphasis): “The residents of the area are, generally speaking, not wealthy and Bo-Kaap is home to many poor and working-class people. An eviction of the type sought in this matter, in which a group of related persons appear to occupy a family home that was acquired from the City of Cape Town some time ago, might well render them homeless or at the very least require them to relocate to one of the outlying suburbs that are now home to the many who fell foul of the Group Areas Act. If those circumstances obtain, a court would be required to think long and hard about the justice and equity of ordering people to vacate a dwelling, long occupied, which has been snapped up by a buyer distant to the neighbourhood for investment or development potential. Certainly, it is to be expected of such buyers that when they seek to move established families out of their homes, they do their homework properly and place all relevant facts before the court.”
Do your homework, and do it properly!
Investor or not, the Court’s warning to do your homework applies to you. Establish whether anyone is living in the house, exactly who they are, how long they have been there, and on what basis.
Bear in mind that because leases need not be in writing, you could find yourself battling occupiers who claim to be tenants under a verbal lease. Without a written record they could well claim to be entitled to pay minimal rent and to have many years left on their “verbal lease”.
So first prize will always be to reach a written, water-tight deal with any occupants before buying – ask your lawyer for help.
Jack Crook, Director at DotNews, is well known to law firms as the author of LawDotNews since 2005. Jack’s legal qualifications (LLB Lond and LLB Rhod) are supplemented by many years of practical experience in law, in marketing his own firm, and in helping other small and medium sized professional firms to prosper by using simple, low-cost, effective marketing strategies.
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Important principles covered like the duty to disclose sufficient information in the Application. Not merely state the minimum re basis of the alleged illegal occupation and personal circumstances. I differ about point as to verbal leases. Verbal leases are governed by the Rental Housing Act. The term of such a lease cannot be 'for many years left on the lease'.