The Voetstoots Clause
Hidden defects could result in expensive repairs!
Be careful with the voetstoots clause! You are not protected from defects by the Consumer Protection Act with the voetstoots clause in an agreement of sale (unless you are buying from a developer or builder).
In certain instances of concealed defects, you have recourse to the law. A legal determination will need to be made as to whether a defect was deliberately concealed or not. This will determine who is liable for costs.
Voetstoots and Patent and Latent Defects
A patent defect is clearly visible upon inspection. This may include items such as a crack in a wall or window, chipped plasterwork etc. The offer to purchase should clearly state who is responsible for repair or replacement.
A cursory inspection does not easily pick up a latent defect, e.g. a faulty geyser, a damp area concealed behind furniture or fresh paint, or a leaking roof.
Common law states that the seller is responsible for all latent defects for a period of three years from the date of sale.
The seller should supply all warranties and documentation of repairs and maintenance on the transfer of the property. Make sure that you are aware of all patent defects!
The seller and the voetstoots clause
Sellers stipulate that the property is for sale ‘as is’ (“Voetstoots”) in the belief that they can avoid expensive repairs. However, the seller remains responsible for any deliberately concealed latent flaw or defect.
The difficulty arises in that the burden of proof lies with the buyer as to whether the seller knew, or ought to have known of the latent defects. This also determines whether you can cancel the contract, or claim some repayment from the seller.
You and the voetstoots clause
The offer to purchase document should contain all detected faults. The fault records must also state which party will be responsible for repairs.
You can insist on certain guarantees, e.g. under ‘Special Conditions’. For instance, you can stipulate that; “The Seller warrants that the swimming pool on the property is not leaking at the date of signature hereof by him”.
For your own protection, you should definitely stipulate that; “The purchase is dependant on a satisfactory home inspection”.
The estate agent and the voetstoots clause
The estate agent is a facilitator and not a party to the contract. Therefore, you can only prosecute an estate agent in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. This applies if the agents ‘supply’ of service was in contravention of the CPA.
An important document is the “Seller’s Property Disclosure” which should form part of the offer to purchase. Sellers are required to disclose problems in the house to the best of their belief and knowledge. However, what the seller “believes” and what is actually true often diverges.
Protection against the voetstoots clause
With a home inspection report by Inspector Homes, you get an accurate, comprehensive discription of the true condition of the home you intend to purchase. You, the buyer, the seller, the estate agent and conveyancers can thus be party to a fair deal.
The cost of the inspection is normally for your account.