Contributed by our listed attorneys
As attorneys who handle many transfers of properties and sale agreement of houses, the one thing we consistently note is that many sellers are not aware of the certificates they have to supply to the purchaser when they sell the property. It can be a costly, but worthwhile exercise, so it is best to know as much about it as possible.
(Afrikaans: Sertifikate benodig deur ‘n Verkoper van eiendom )
There are five certificates that must be supplied when you sell your home, namely electrical, gas, electric fence, water/plumbing and beetle certificates. These certificates must be obtained at your own cost and anything that needs to be fixed must be fixed by you.
Don’t worry too much or get too scared, as the previous paragraph sounds daunting. Most houses are in a good shape and do not need too much work. The certificates are not as expensive as they may seem to you now. There are companies who specialise in providing you with all five certificates (or however many you need depending on the area you are in) at a special rate.
We will now take a look at each certificate:
This certificate must certify that the electrical installation on the property complies with the prescribed standards of safety. The Electrical certificate must be issued by a qualified and registered electrician. The requirement for the electrical certificate required in property transactions is governed by the occupation Health & Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993. The certificate may not be older than two years and if it is not obtained immediately, but is at least two years old, no alterations/modifications or changes to the building must have been effected since the issuing of the certificate. Otherwise, the seller must provide a new certificate.
The parties can agree that the purchaser will pay for the certificate and any repairs that may be required. It often happens that the seller may take a reduced selling price if the purchaser is prepared to pay the expense of the certificate and any repairs that may be required. The property cannot be transferred without the certificate and the purchaser must make sure that he receives it before the property is transferred to his/her name. The parties can also agree that the seller does not have to provide this certificate at all, but then the purchaser cannot claim from the seller after the property is transferred to his/her name if any repairs are required on the electrical installation of the property.
This certificate must certify that the water installation on the property is in line with municipal and building guidelines. This is a specific requirement of the City of Cape Town (municipality) and is contained in their by-laws. This certificate must be issued by a registered and qualified plumber. The certificate can be issued at any time and does not have the same 2-year requirement as the electrical certificate has. The parties cannot agree that the seller does not have to provide a plumbing certificate like in the case of an electrical certificate. As it is contained in the by-laws it is a requirement that must be obliged with. The plumbing certificate must be lodged with the Municipality (City of Cape Town) before the date of transfer of the property.
A gas certificate will certify that any gas installation on the property complies with the Occupational Health & Safety Act. This is of course if any gas is installed on the property. If the property is purely on electricity, then of course no gas certificate needs to be supplied. There is also no restriction on the date of the certificate (older than 2 years), and the parties can also not agree to contract out of supplying this certificate. The seller must obtain the certificate and it must be supplied to the purchaser before the date of transfer. The bank may require a certificate if the purchaser applies for a bond, so it is better to give the certificate as soon as possible after the agreement was signed.
The beetle certificate will certify that the wood structures on the property are free from certain beetles that eat and destroy wood. This certificate is not provided because of any legislation, but it is a practice that has developed over the years and has become firmly embedded in property transactions. The seller and buyer can agree on the validity period of the certificate, so there is also no time requirement like with an electrical certificate. (not older than two years). They can also agree that the seller does not have to supply a certificate as there is no obligation on the seller to do so. It is always better to supply the certificate than not, as it just irons out and avoids potential future better.
It is also better to obtain the certificate just after the purchase agreement was signed and not supply one that is five years old, even if there is no time constraint on the certificate. I doubt if a purchaser will accept a beetle certificate that is 5 years old in any case, as new infestations could have started after the certificate was issued.
The Seller must obtain the certificate and hand it to the Purchaser before transfer of the property.
The electric fence certificate will certify that the electric fence installation complies with the Occupational Health & Safety Act. The seller and purchaser can agree to waive the requirement to supply an electric fence certificate. A new certificate only needs to be obtained if a change was made to the electric fence installation after the original certificate was issued. It will also apply to a sectional-title property. These certificates have not yet been legislated and are not yet a requirement, but we find that more and more purchasers ask for these certificates.
We understand that swimming pool certificates are also in the pipeline.
Normally the estate agent who sells the property will make the arrangements for the seller as part of the service of the agent. Where there is no agent the seller must make the arrangements him/herself.
Once you decide to sell your property, it is a good idea to get a preliminary inspection of your property by an electrician, a plumber (who is also qualified to do gas installations), a beetle inspector so that you can pick up potential problems that must be corrected sooner rather than later. You don’t want to find out that there are problems with any of the aforementioned installations and that it could hold up or jeopardise any sale agreement.