House robbery exposes dangers of nondisclosure
A written contract cannot be cancelled verbally. It has to be in writing, signed by the contracting parties and the reason for the cancellation has to be valid.
Nondisclosure of a vital point which goes to the core of the contract is one of the valid reasons for cancellation.
Vincent Malebye, 33, of Diepkloof had just taken occupation of the home he intended to buy when thieves forcefully gained entry into the house last month with the intention to rob his family.
He struggled to cancel the sale, but his nightmare is now over as the seller released them from the contract a day after Consumer Line stepped in.
Consumer Line saved Malebye and his wife, Nthabi, the R860,000 they would have paid for a house that is located in a crime-infested area.
Malebye said that during their negotiations to buy the house, he had asked the sales agent representing Remax All Stars about the crime levels in the area and was assured it was a quiet and safe place.
He and his wife, Nthabi, proceeded to sign the contact and paid a R5,000 deposit to the transferring attorneys to show their serious intent.
"We were told by the agent and later the attorneys that the immediate occupation of the property while registration is under way without paying rent," said Malebye.
The contact was signed in October and they moved in on November 30. But they had a rude awakening a month later.
One evening at around midnight, four robbers broke into their new home, three of them with guns. "They pinned us down, demanding all our valuables, including car keys, intending to load our belongings in our car and flee," he said.
Luckily, they were interrupted by the armed response security guys who had been alerted by the panic button the couple had pressed after they had heard a big bang in the lounge, Malebye said. "Gun fire ensured between the robbers and the armed response security guards," he said.
He said the experience was very traumatic and he later learned from neighbours and the security guards that crime was very rife in that area. Malebye and his wife decided to immediately move out and went to stay at his parents' house.
"We called the agent and informed him of our ordeal and withdrew from the contract," he said.
To persuade them to proceed with the sale, the transferring attorney, Amanda Labuschagne of Thompson Attorneys, told them that the seller would cover the transferring fees. Transferring fees are usually paid for by the buyer of a property.
"We told her we were more concerned about our lives than transferring fees but she went on to say the seller was a retired pensioner and needed money."
Malebye says that the attorney, estate agent and seller then threatened to sue him if he did not continue with the sale.
The attorney proceeded with the registration and later sent him a progress report stating the transfer costs had been paid.
Malebye said he had cancelled the sale because there was a misrepresentation on the part of the Remax agent which induced the contract.
He said had they been told the truth about the level of crime in the area, they would not have entered into the sale agreement.
"We don't know who paid the transfer cost and we did not bother asking because we are no longer interested," he said.
Thompson said that after hearing about the Malebyes' traumatic experience, they invited them to a round table meeting, but they could not make it.
She said that they had proceeded with the registration of the property as they did not receive a letter of cancellation.
"In the absence of a cancellation and or agreement to cancel, we had no alternative but to lodge our matter in the Johannesburg Deeds registry on 29th January," Thompson said.
She said they were willing to resolve the matter amicably and a day later, the contract was cancelled. The Malebyes' were also refunded their R5,000 deposit.
"I confirm that the principal of Remax All Stars has learned of the traumatic experience that Mr and Ms Malebye went through and they have agreed to release her from the agreement.
I am just awaiting the signed cancellation agreement," Thompson said by e-mail last Thursday.
The Malebyes also confirmed they had received a letter of cancellation from the attorney. "My husband could have been killed on that day and I would have been a widow by now. Thank you so much for helping," said Nthabi