Pretoria property owner ordered to pay back over R600,000 after he knowingly sold land with high risk of sinkhole formation

Daphney Chuma had dreams of building a house on land she later discovered was unstable and could swallow it, and the high court ruled in her favour. File Picture: Phando Jikelo/ African News Agency (ANA)

Daphney Chuma had dreams of building a house on land she later discovered was unstable and could swallow it, and the high court ruled in her favour. File Picture: Phando Jikelo/ African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 19, 2023


A Pretoria property owner who knowingly sold land that was defective and not conducive for residential dwelling, was ordered to pay the client back over R600,000 after almost six years of refusing to do so.

Daphney Chuma approached the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria after she realised that the property she bought from Bondcor(Pty) Ltd had latent defects and she would not be able to build her dream home on it.

In 2017, she saw a ‘for sale’ sign at a property in Centurion. She contacted the reflected estate agent, Anton Vorster from Apple Properties.

Vorster confirmed that the property was on sale and that it came with approved plans for a double storey house.

In September 2017, she paid the deposit in the amount of R270,000 and eventually settled the R600,000 amount which was the purchase price.

She also paid a little over R17,000 for transfer fees and over R20,000 in respect of rates and taxes and other municipal services.

In December 2017, the property was registered in her name. But she was not given the plans as promised.

Chuma’s idea was to build herself a single storey house so she had her own plan drawn. She submitted the plan to the relevant municipality, unfortunately, her plan was not approved.

The municipality informed her that there were no current approved plans in the area and those that were previously approved, have since lapsed as no building works have taken place.

She was further informed that the property was underlain by dolomite and that a dolomite stability investigation was required.

After that getting that information, she appointed Beverley Keyter from Geostable SA which specialises in assessing the stability of dolomitic ground.

Keyter found out that there was an existing report on the property prepared in 2001 by Johann van der Merwe.

She added that the property has a risk for accumulation of water and a high risk of sinkhole formation and has no resale value from a residential point of view.

Chuma said she also managed to get the previously approved plans for the property after Vorster referred her to a house in Arcadia where a gardener gave her an envelope containing the building plans for the property.

Inside the envelope, stashed together with the building plans, Chuma discovered that there was a geological report on the property prepared by Van der Merwe.

Chuma asserted that had she known of the latent defects and the report from Van der Merwe, she would not have bought the property as her intention was to build herself a house.

The director of Bondcor, Werner Serfontein said he purchased the property in 2016 at an auction for R160,000. He went to the municipality and discovered that there were approved building plans for the property and also that the file contained a report from Van der Merwe.

However, he did not bother to look at the plans and the report.

Serfontein said he only became aware of the report in 2019 and added that the report said it was suitable to build two residential units, subject to certain remedial action taken with regard to the foundation to be laid.

Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi said Chuma was a credible and honest witness and her evidence was coherent and logical regarding the purpose for which she was buying the property.

Mngqibisa-Thusi said Serfontein was an evasive witness, particularly when it came to whether he was aware of the report from Van der Merwe.

“I am of the view that Serfontein fraudulently failed to disclose the latent defect in the property to the plaintiff,” she said.

Serfontein was ordered to back the R600,000 with interest at 10.25% per annum, as Chuma got the money through a bond loan from Standard Bank.

He also has to pay back over R37,000 which Chuma spent on transfer fees as well as rates and taxes.

He was also held responsible for the costs of the application.