Don’t give any­one carte blanche in home deals

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY -

IT’S AL­WAYS good ad­vice never to sign blank forms in busi­ness deal­ings – and that also holds true for prop­erty con­sumers sign­ing of­fers to pur­chase or sales agree­ments.

Martin Schultheiss, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Har­courts Africa es­tate agency group, cau­tions sell­ers and buy­ers never to al­low them­selves to be per­suaded to sign agree­ments that in­clude blank spa­ces, no mat­ter what as­sur­ances are be­ing given.

“Of­fers to pur­chase be­come legally bind­ing doc­u­ments once signed by the seller and buyer and any claims that in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion was filled in in a blank space are very dif­fi­cult to prove,” he says.

“This leaves the con­sumer with two ex­pen­sive op­tions: he can ei­ther spend a lot of time and money to con­test the agree­ment, with poor prospects of winning his case, or he can knuckle down to the con­di­tions set out in the agree­ment, which will quite likely also hurt his pocket.”

For in­stance, he says, a seller could find him­self pay­ing costs usu- ally borne by buy­ers, such as trans­fer duty and bond regis­tra­tion costs, sim­ply be­cause he ini­tialled blank spa­ces on the sales agree­ment in the be­lief that they would be cor­rectly filled in at a later date.

“Sim­i­larly, sell­ers can be­come stranded in their sold prop­erty if the clause spec­i­fy­ing the amount of time a buyer has to sell his own prop­erty is left blank. This would mean the buyer can take as long as it suits him to sell his ex­ist­ing prop­erty, while the seller has to put up with mount­ing hold­ing costs and the in­con­ve­nience of time de­lays in buy­ing his next prop­erty, “ he said.

Schultheiss fur­ther cau­tions that con­sumers should be dili­gent in cross­ing out any clauses that have no rel­e­vance to their trans­ac­tion and check that the rest of the doc­u­ment has been cor­rectly com­pleted.

“For in­stance, if the mu­nic­i­pal ad­dress of the prop­erty is in­cor­rect, the deeds of­fice will refuse to reg­is­ter trans­fer of own­er­ship un­til the mat­ter is rec­ti­fied.”

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