Written for Property Poser

This week our Property Poser panel of experts tackles a reader’s problems with faulty wiring and borer beetles in his new home.

The reader recently purchased a house and received the necessary electrical compliance and borer beetle clearance certificates. However, he has since discovered that there are problems with both.

Shortly after moving in, he noticed borer beetle activity and shortcomings in the electrical installation. The reader’s suspicions were confirmed when he obtained independent reports on both these issues.

He immediately contacted the estate agent and transferring attorney, but neither one was willing to take action. The reader wants to know who is responsible for fixing the problems.

Jacques Ehlers from Du Toit Strömbeck Attorneys in Port Elizabeth says an electrical compliance certificate is a legal requirement when selling a property, in terms of the Electrical Installation Regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“Our reader can lodge a complaint about his defective electrical compliance certificate with a local approved electrical inspection authority. After investigating the matter, this authority will take action against an electrician who does not adhere to the code of practice prescribed by the Electrical Contracting Board of South Africa.”

Ehlers says a borer beetle certificate is not necessarily required, but, in this instance, appears to be part of the agreement.

“The terms of the agreement will determine who is responsible for the repairs. Usually the seller provides the electrical certificate and will therefore be liable for the repairs and new certificate.”

The agreement also outlines what steps the reader may take if these terms are breached, says Ehlers.

“Provision is made for the defaulting party to correct the situation within a specified period. Failure to do so may entitle the other party to cancel the agreement if the transfer has not yet been registered at the deeds office, or claim damages.”

Charlotte Vermaak from Chas Everitt in PE says that there is not necessarily an explicit duty on the part of the estate agent or transferring attorney to assist the reader with his problem.

“There may, however, be a moral and ethical responsibility to get involved. The problem is that both of these parties typically act on behalf of the seller.”

Should the transaction be cancelled, the estate agent risks forfeiting any commission earned from the sale, according to Vermaak. “This in itself could be sufficient motivation for the agent to persist with the flawed transaction.”

Vermaak says that, on the other hand, the involvement of the transferring attorney can sometimes help to sort out the problem. “The attorney may bear more weight in ensuring that the defaulting party remedies the situation.

“Although the transferring attorney is typically appointed by the seller, the attorney does have certain obligations to the purchaser in terms of the transfer process.”

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