Taken for a costly ride

A Sandton, Johannesburg, businesswoman believes her attorney, who sold her his business, gave her a raw deal that caused her to lose R27000 after withholding vital information which is at the root of the contract.

A Sandton, Johannesburg, businesswoman believes her attorney, who sold her his business, gave her a raw deal that caused her to lose R27000 after withholding vital information which is at the root of the contract.

Charlotte Tshabalala, who ran a coffee shop for years at Oliver Tambo International Airport, wanted to relocate her business. So she approached the franchiser of Gloria Jeans product.

Tshabalala said she was referred to Rischard Cassim, an attorney in Sandton, who was selling his franchise at an Alberton shopping centre.

Tshabalala said Cassim sold her his coffee business for R900000, and she paid him a R100000 deposit.

She later secured a loan to buy the business, but later stopped the process after discovering that the rental was much higher than what Cassim had stated.

She said she had already paid a rental deposit of R60000 to the landlord through Cassim as he had advised.

"The landlord later called me demanding R41000 monthly rental, though Cassim had said I would only pay R27000 a month," Tshabalala said.

Besides, the deposit she had paid was higher than the monthly rental, she said.

"As the current tenant, an attorney and the seller, he knew how much was payable a month and that was important for me to know, but he chose to reduce the amount payable," she said.

"I think Cassim was getting rid of his business. He did not even disclose if he was making a profit or not when I asked," added Tshabalala.

She cancelled her contract and demanded her money back, but Cassim charged her a penalty of R27000.

She still has not received the R60000 she paid the landlord.

Tshabalala said she tried for nine months to resolve her problem with Cassim without success. She then approached Consumer Line.

She said Cassim deliberately withheld relevant details about the lease agreement.

"He dishonestly made us believe that the lease belonged to him when it did not.

"He misrepresented the status of his business and penalised us when we cancelled the contract, which we would not have concluded if we knew the exact status," Tshabalala said.

She said she did not even know who her landlord was.

"If I knew that, I would have requested a refund, plus the interest," said Tshabalala.

She said even though Cassim had promised to refund her money within three months, he had not done so.

It took Cassim three months to respond to Consumer Line's enquiry.

He confirmed that Tshabalala and her husband had signed a sale agreement for a business.

"They subsequently reneged on the agreement and two penalties were agreed to in lieu of a full cancellation and forfeiture of a deposit of R100000," he said.

He said they had to pay the rental for the month they had occupied and traded on the property. This was R27000.

"They had to remain as the lessees. The previous seller had continued to be the lessee as we had already communicated our intention to sell the business prior to the finalisation of the lease into our name.

"To date the lease is in the name of a cc belonging to Charlotte and Msizi and the deposit is in the name of that cc as well.

"We are in the process of selling the business and if and when the new purchaser signs the lease agreement releasing Charlotte's cc, the R60000 will be paid over to them by the landlord.

"The money was never paid to us and has never been ours.

"The money belongs to Charlotte and Msizi and will be refunded to them on the signing of a new lease by a new lessee."

Cassim has not explained why the landlord has withheld Tshabalala's money after they cancelled the contract, and how the current tenant was allowed to trade using Tshabalala's deposit.

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