Don’t give anyone carte blanche in home deals
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.”