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I definitely advise that you should inspect the property you intent to buy thoroughly before signing any documents. Only in certain instances, will the buyer be protected against severe defects discovered in the property after the transfer of the property has been registered. The law will attempt to determine whether the defect is patent of latent, and if latent, whether the seller deliberately concealed it with the intent to defraud the buyer, and on these grounds, the appropriate authorities will make a ruling as to who is responsible for the cost of repair.
You are advised to not only undertake a physical inspection of the property, but also adding the local authority’s approval of any outbuildings, additions and alterations that have been effected to the property. In terms of the Law, the absence of statutory permissions (approved building or alteration plans, etc.) may very well be “defects”.
A patent defect is clearly visible upon reasonable inspection, like a crack in a wall or window. It should also be very clearly stated in the Offer to Purchase who shall be responsible to “fix” or to “replace” this defect.
A latent defect is not so easily picked up on superficial inspection, for example faulty geyser, a damp area concealed behind furniture, fresh paint concealing a defect, or a leaking roof.
The buyer has no recourse against the seller for “patent” defects, which are visible or obvious without inspection – it is up to the buyer to look for them, and to decide whether or not to proceed with the purchase or alternatively to negotiate the repair thereof.
The seller is responsible for all latent defects in the property for three years from the date of sale of the property. It is for this reason that a seller would stipulate in the agreement of sale that the property is for sale “as is / voetstoots”. This covers the seller against all defects, including “latent” (non obvious or hidden) defects, although he is still responsible for any latent flaws that have been deliberately concealed and can only rely on the “voetstoots” clause if the defect was unknown to him. However, the burden of proof is on the purchaser if he alleges that the seller knows or ought to have known about the defect, and deliberately concealed it.
A buyer should ask the seller to supply all warranties and documentation relating to repairs and maintenance on transfer of the property.
Depending on the circumstances, the buyer can cancel the contract and/or claim repayment of a portion of the purchase price when a latent defect is present. In terms of the law a buyer cannot simply obtain a quotation for the repair or replacement of the defect in the property and then deduct the cost thereof from the purchase price and tender a lesser amount (or reduce his deposit) to the seller. Any new defects that are discovered or occur after the sale of the property but prior to registration of transfer will be the seller’s responsibility, unless caused by the buyer during occupation.

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