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Durban - Using a standard form bought from a local stationer has proved to be a costly mistake for the buyers and sellers in a property deal because, after already running expensive litigation, a Durban High Court judge has ruled that the truth to determine if the deal was legitimate or not can only be unravelled through oral evidence at another trial.
“These standard forms are dangerous instruments in the hands of laypersons, unschooled in the technicalities prescribed by law for contracts required to be in writing,” Judge Rashid Vahed said in his judgment in the matter of Bongani and Thabile Mazibuko versus Doman and Sampooram Rampersadh.
The Mazibukos obtained an interim order against the Rampersadhs last October, preventing them from transferring the property – a house in Avoca Hills – to anyone else after the Rampersadhs purported to cancel the sale agreement signed in July.
The matter came before Judge Vahed late last month for argument on the papers.
In his recent judgment, he said the home owners had put up a “for sale” sign outside their home which had attracted the Mazibukos and a process of negotiation had begun, involving neither estate agents nor lawyers.
The Mazibukos bought two identical printed documents headed “Offer to Purchase which constitutes a Deed of Sale when accepted”.
The documents, he said, contained four pages of paragraphs setting out terms and conditions commonly applicable to property deals, with blank spaces for the insertion of details such as price, dates and special conditions.
At a meeting between the two parties last July, the forms were partially completed, indicating a price of R650 000, and each party left the meeting with one copy.
However, the documents submitted to the court by each party were now different, written in different manuscripts, with signatures in different places.
One was initialled on each page and the other not, and they reflected different agreements regarding the deposit.
The Rampersadhs claimed that certain additions and alterations on the Mazibuko document were never agreed to by them.
They claim that in spite of repeated promises, the buyers never paid the deposit into their bank account and that contrary to the agreement, they chose the conveyancer.
Doman Rampersadh said he told Bongani Mazibuko that he was cancelling the agreement and sent him a confirmatory SMS the next day, saying it was “null and void”, although he concedes that “because I am a lay person, I was uncertain of the correct legal term”.
Judge Vahed said the answer to the problem lay in unpacking, in detail, what transpired when the parties met and precisely what form the document took during the various stages of its construction.
“It is prudent to hear oral evidence of every interaction between the parties to get a complete picture of what unfolded from the time the ‘for sale’ notice was posted,” he said, reserving costs until the final outcome of the trial. - The Mercury