Angry son to challenge court’s ‘voestoots’ ruling
A JOBURG man is preparing to challenge a Western Cape High Court ruling on behalf of his sick mother, who was held liable for failing to disclose information about house defects to a couple who bought the property from her.
The court found that a clause in the sale agreement, which stipulated that she sold the house “voetstoots” (as it stands), did not protect her.
Now her son, André Cilliers, is preparing to take the matter further, saying he and his siblings felt insulted.
“The house was a monument to the man that my father was. It was a beautiful dwelling that my mother was proud to sell to a young couple who had just begun a family, so much so that she left a lot of furniture for them, since she would not be needing these in her smaller place in Nelspruit. This was also thrown back into her face, saying that she did this out of guilt,” Cilliers said.
Edward and Lisa Ellis took transfer of the Knysna property in 2011, and began renovations. When they removed the kitchen cupboards, they discovered serious problems with the structure of the house.
They approached the High Court, where Cilliers’s mother, Catherine, submitted that she had no intention of defrauding the couple, and had been unaware of the problems.
Her lawyers argued that she was, in any event, protected by the “voetstoots” clause. But the court disagreed. Cilliers responded that his parents bought the property in 1994, while they were still living in Bloemfontein.
“The house had been designed to be a double-storey dwelling, but the builder ran out of money and only the ground floor living area had been developed,” he said.
His father, who he described as a “woodworker of note”, continued work on the house when they moved there in 1996.
It took 14 years for him to transform the house, “the construction of which was a shoddy job from the beginning”, so that both floors were developed.
“Some of the door frames, for instance, were installed incorrectly, causing one door to fall open all the time.
“My father boxed these in and hung a new door so that this no longer happened. Some of the roof beams had been installed skew by the builder of the house. My father nailed a beautiful pine ceiling over the beams, simply because the skew beams worried him. He enjoyed woodwork and he had the time to fix the place. Some of the wooden floors of the house were also uneven because of construction issues from the beginning. These were corrected and tiled,” Cilliers said.
His father died in September 2010, and his mother now has cancer.
She was desperate to sell the house so she could move to Nelspruit for care and treatment.
“She did this and the house was sold way below market value due to the urgency of the sale.
“She ended up selling the house via an agent to the Ellis family, whom she never met. She was in Johannesburg at the time undergoing a liver operation. The Ellises were allowed to visit the house as much and as often as they wanted to, and were free to direct any questions to her via the agent.
“The sale was finalised when she was already living in Nelspruit. The Ellises bought a perfectly functional house which had been lived in for 14 years,” Cilliers said.
He said the “voetstoots” clause was included in the sale agreement simply because it was a standard phrase in such contracts before the law changed.
Cilliers said he was taking the matter further on behalf of his mother and the rest of the family.