Category Archives: Banking and Finance Litigation

Om te registreer of nie: Die risiko van bankier speel

A1blVoornemende plaaskopers vind dit al moeiliker om die aankoop van plase en ander landbougrond te finansier. Baie verkopers van sodanige eiendom oorweeg dan die toestaan van ‘n verbandlening aan die voornemende koper vir die aankoopbedrag wat oor ‘n tydperk terugbetaal moet word. Des te erger aanvaar sommige ‘n skriftelike skulderkenning en toestemming tot vonnis as voldoende beskerming, waarna die partye blad skud en die oordragdokumente onderteken.

Voorheen was die blote registrasie van ‘n verband of ‘n kennisgewing dat die grond verkoop is met ‘n afbetalingsooreenkoms, voldoende. Tesame met die vereiste skriftelike koopooreenkoms het dit genoegsame beskerming aan die toevallige geldlener verskaf in geval van wanbetaling deur die koper.

Die Nasionale Kredietwet het egter alles verander. Hierdie Wet voorsien onder andere dat met enige kredietooreenkoms waarvan die bedrag R500 000 (vyfhonderdduisend Rand) oorskry, die gelduitlener as ‘n kredietverlener geregistreer moet wees. Dit sluit ook die toevallige privaat-plaasverkoper in, selfs as dit ‘n eenmalige ooreenkoms is met geen bedoeling deur die verkoper om ooit weer krediet aan enige ander persoon te verskaf nie. Versuim om te registreer as ‘n kredietverlener voor die aangaan van ‘n transaksie definieerbaar as ‘n “krediettransaksie”, is ‘n oortreding van die Wet.

Sou die kredietverlener nie registreer nie en die koper versuim om die paaiemente te betaal, is artikel 89(5) van die Nasionale Kredietwet onverbiddelik voorskriftelik aan die howe met hul hantering van sodanige omstandighede. Die kredietooreenkoms is ongeldig vanaf die datum waarop dit aangegaan is. Die kredietverlener moet onmiddellik alle betalings gemaak in terme van die ooreenkoms terugbetaal, asook die voorgeskrewe rente daarop. Die belangrikste is egter dat alle veronderstelde regte wat die kredietverlener sou gehad het om enige gelde betaal of goedere gelewer aan die koper te verhaal, verbeur word, insluitend die eiendom self, wat aan die staat verbeur word, tensy ‘n hof bevind dat sodanige verbeuring onregverdige verryking van die koper daarstel.

Menige verkopers, en selfs prokureurs, is óf onbewus van hierdie vereistes óf is blatant met die verontagsaming van die vereistes, want hulle “vertrou” mos die koper en “weet” dat die volle terugbetaling gemaak sal word, insluitend die rente. Dit is wanneer die ergste gebeur en die welbekende en vertroude koper wanbetaal, dat die probleem manifesteer. Verkopers wat as kredietverleners optree, maak staat op die betalings en die rente ten einde ‘n ander plaas, erger nog, hul aftrede te finansier.

Die Konstitusionele Hof het onlangs die geldigheid van hierdie artikel van die Nasionale Kredietwet en spesifiek die sub-artikel wat handel oor die verbeurdverklaring van die eiendom aan die staat, beoordeel aan die hand van die Handves van Menseregte, spesifiek wat betref die reg om nie eensydig van eiendom ontneem te word nie, en ook die sogenaamde Beperkingsklousule. J van der Westhuizen het op 10 Desember 2012 die meerderheidsbeslissing gelewer en bevind dat die eensydige verbeurdverklaring van eiendom aan die staat soos voorgeskryf in sub-artikel 89(5)(c) van die Nasionale Kredietwet, teenstrydig is met artikel 25(1) van die Handves van Menseregte.

Hierdie uitspraak moet egter ‘n dringende wekroep aan alle ongeregistreerde kredietverlenende plaasverkopers wees. Die bedoeling van die Nasionale Kredietwet is om die voorsiening van krediet buite die raamwerk daargestel deur die wetgewing, te ontmoedig. Die wet het dus ten doel om diegene te straf wat nie aan die vereistes daarvan voldoen nie, en die straf is swaar.

Sou die plaasverkoper nie geregistreer wees as ‘n kredietverlener nie en die koper versuim om die betalings te maak, loop sodanige verkoper ‘n risiko – ‘n baie groot en ernstige risiko. Tensy ‘n hof beveel dat die omstandighede sodanig is dat dit ‘n onregverdige verryking van die koper daarstel, kan ‘n verkoper nie net alle betalings en rente wat ontvang is, verbeur nie, maar hy sal ook ‘n hofbevel moet verkry wat beveel dat die verkoper geregtig is om die plaas van die wanbetalende koper terug te eis.

Die Nasionale Kredietwet verklaar sodanige kredietooreenkoms onwettig vanaf die datum waarop dit aangegaan is, derhalwe kan so ‘n kredietooreenkoms nie afgedwing word en die party in mora kan nie verplig word om te voldoen aan die ooreenkoms nie. Ons reg voorsien dat sodanige ooreenkomste afgedwing moet word as ongeregverdigde verryking, en spesifiek met die conditio ob turpem vel iniustam causam. Die vereistes daarvan is kortliks dat eienaarskap oorgedra moes wees, oordrag moes plaasgevind het op grond van ‘n onwettige ooreenkoms en die eiser moet alles wat kragtens die oreenkoms ontvang is, terugtender.

Die suksesvolle eiser moet egter ook kan bewys dat hy sonder enige kwaadwilligheid opgetree het en dat sy optrede verder nie oneerbaar was nie. Aangesien die howe se diskresie ongrondwetlik beperk is in sub-artikel 89(5)(c), mag die bankier-spelende, kredietverlenende plaasverkoper dalk nie meer die plaaseiendom aan die staat verbeur nie. Maar sodanige verkoper is egter nog lank nie in die posisie waarin hy sou gewees het as hy net ‘n eenvoudige registrasieproses gevolg het om as ‘n kredietverlener te registreer nie.

Burgerlike gehoorsaamheid aan die wetgewing van ‘n land skep ‘n stabiele, veilige, regverdige en gelyke samelewing met ‘n sterk ekonomie wat beleggers aanloklik vind. Nakoming van die Nasionale Kredietwet se vereistes verseker nie net vertroue in onroerende bates as belegging nie, maar beskerm ook diegene wat graag bankier wil speel.

Lees gerus National Credit Regulator vs Fillippus Albertus Opperman en ander, saaknommer CCT34/12 [2012] ZACC 29 en die gesag waarna verwys word in beide die meerderheidsbeslissing en die minderheidsbeslissing, geskryf deur J Cameron.

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies.

To register or not: The risk of playing banker

A1blPurchasers have increasing difficulty to obtain financing for the purchase of farms and other agricultural land. Many sellers of these properties consider granting the purchaser a bond for the purchase amount, to be paid off over a period of time. Worse, some accept an acknowledgement of indebtedness and consent to judgment as sufficient protection, prior to shaking hands and signing off on the transfer agreements.

Previously, the mere registration of the bond or the notice confirming the instalment sale of a property registered at the Deeds Office was sufficient. Together with the required written agreement it constituted protection to the incidental money lender in the event of a defaulting purchaser.

The National Credit Act has changed everything. The Act provides, inter alia, that in any credit agreement where the credit amount exceeds R500 000 (five hundred thousand Rand), the lender is to be registered as a credit provider. This includes the occasional private farm seller, even if it is a once-off arrangement with no intention by the seller to provide credit to any other person ever again. Failure to register as a credit provider prior to a transaction that can be defined as a “credit transaction” is a transgression of the Act.

Should the credit provider not be registered and the purchaser defaults on the payment agreement, section 89(5) of the National Credit Act is unequivocally prescriptive on how the courts are to deal with such circumstances. The credit agreement is void as from the date it was entered into. The credit provider must refund all payments made in terms of the agreement together with stipulated interest. Most importantly, all purported rights of the credit provider to recover any money paid or the goods that were delivered to the consumer, are cancelled, or the property forfeited to the state, unless a court finds that such forfeiture will unjustly enrich the purchaser.

Many sellers, and even attorneys, are either unaware of this provision or blatantly flaunt the requirement as they “trust” the purchaser and “know” that the full repayment will be made, including the interest. The problem only manifests when the worst case scenario does occur and the well-known and trusted purchaser defaults on the payments. Many of the sellers who acted as credit providers relied on such repayments and interest either to fund another farm purchase or worse, their retirement.

The Constitutional Court recently considered the validity of this section of the National Credit Act and specifically of the clause relating to forfeiture of the property to the state in the light of the Bill of Rights, regarding the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of property and the so-called Limitation clause. J van der Westhuizen delivered a majority judgement on 10 December 2012 which declared the arbitrary forfeiture of property to the state prescribed in section 89(5)(c) of the National Credit Act to be inconsistent with section 25(1) of the constitution, and thus invalid.

This judgement should, however, sound an urgent alarm to any and all unregistered credit-providing farm sellers. The intention of the National Credit Act is to discourage the provision of credit outside the framework set by the legislature. The Act thus has to punish those that do not comply with the requirements thereof, and the punishment is severe.

Should the farm seller therefore not have registered as a credit provider, and the purchaser defaults on his payments, such seller is at risk – a very real and serious risk. Unless a court orders that the circumstances will unjustly enrich the purchaser, such seller may not only forfeit all payments and interest, but will have to obtain a court order that the seller is entitled to recover the farm from the defaulting purchaser.

If the credit agreement is unlawful as from inception in terms of the National Credit Act, the agreement cannot be enforced and the defaulting party cannot be compelled to perform. In our law, pursuance of such agreement must then be made in terms of unjustified enrichment, and specifically the conditio ob turpem vel iniustam causam. In short, the requirements are that the ownership must have passed with transfer, transfer must have taken place in terms of an unlawful agreement, and the claimant must tender back everything received.

However, to be successful the claimant must be able to prove that he acted free of turpitude and show that the actions were not dishonourable. The banker-playing credit-providing farm seller might not forfeit the farm as the court’s discretion has been unconstitutionally curtailed in section 89(5)(c), but is still far from the position he could have been in had he simply registered as a credit provider.

Civil obedience regarding the legislation of the country creates a stable, safe, just and equitable society with a strong economy and an affinity with investors. Compliance with the National Credit Act not only ensures confidence in immovable property as an investment, but will protect those who want to play banker.

For further reading see National Credit Regulator vs Fillippus Albertus Opperman and others, case number CCT34/12 [2012] ZACC 29 and case law quoted by both the majority judgement and descending judgment written by J Cameron.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.