Written for Property Poser

An unsatisfied buyer has asked our Property Poser experts whether there is a cooling-off period when purchasing a property.

It appears that he has already signed all the documents relating to the transfer and moved in.

He mentions problems that were experienced when trying to move furniture into the double storey house, which included having to hoist some pieces up to the first-floor balcony to access the upstairs rooms.

Charlotte Vermaak from Chas Everitt in Port Elizabeth says as from 1998 the Alienation of Land Act of 1981 made provision for such a cooling-off period, but there are conditions. “This remedy is only available in transactions where the purchase price is R250 000 and lower.”

Furthermore, says Vermaak, the option has to be exercised within five days of the date of signing of an offer to purchase or deed of alienation by a buyer. “This excludes the day of signature and also weekends and public holidays.”

A further provision determines that the agreement has to be in writing in order to be enforceable, according to Vermaak. “The practice is typically that the potential buyer makes an offer in writing and once the seller has accepted such offer by signing it, a binding agreement is created.”

However, says Vermaak, sometimes a seller signs first. “Whichever way it is done, the relevant date is when the buyer signs and not when the agreement is concluded.”

Vermaak says it normally takes a while after signing the offer to purchase for the relevant documents to be drafted, signed and sent to the Deeds Office, which the reader seems to refer to. “It is doubtful therefore that the reader is still within the time period.”

Jacques Ehlers from Du Toit Strömbeck Attorneys in PE says another provision is that the cooling-off period is only applicable where a natural person is the buyer. “It does not apply to companies, close corporations, trusts or to properties purchased at public auctions.”

Ehlers says there are other exclusions in the act, for example that it does not apply to the sale of agricultural land, or where a buyer and seller had previously entered into a deed of alienation for the same property on similar terms.

If a buyer is still within the cooling-off period, it is important that written notice is delivered to the seller, according to Ehlers. “Knowledge by the seller of the revocation is important and the revocation must be unconditional.”

Ehlers says it may not be sufficient to give notice to the seller’s estate agent, just as it may not be sufficient for the buyer’s agent to sign the notice of revocation, since he may not be authorised to do so. “The agreement typically includes a domicilium clause, which specifies delivery addresses for notices.”

The reader’s inconvenience in moving household effects into the property will almost certainly not provide grounds to cancel the contract, according to Ehlers.

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