Transfer date and occupation date important when buying or selling

29 August 2018

When a home is sold the ideal is for the new owner to move in on the transfer/registration date. However, this is not always possible for a whole variety of reasons.

The seller may need to stay on in the home for some time (usually a matter of a few days but sometimes longer) while the new buyer may need to move in before the property is transferred into the new owner's name.

In property sales, says Rowan Alexander, Director of Alexander Swart Property, there have always been these two important dates: the date of registration/transfer i.e. the date on which the buyer legally becomes the new owner, and the date of occupation i.e.when the new buyer actually moves in.

"Until the day on which transfer actually takes place," he says, "the owner must continue to meet all his bond payments and all his municipal charges. He must also ensure that his insurance is paid up, even if he no longer occupies the home himself. Supposing, for example, the new owner, having been granted early occupation, accidently burns down the home before the transfer has taken place. The full risk of this is carried by the original owner - and woe betide him if his insurance is not up to date."

Equally important, says Alexander, if the seller is allowed to take occupation before the sale document is signed, a water-tight legal agreement must be made as to what occupational rental the new buyer will be charged in the interim.

There have, says Alexander, been cases where, lacking such an agreement, the new owner assumed he would pay only a nominal rental while, in other cases, the seller felt entitled to demand an exorbitantly high occupational rental because of the unusual conditions. Such matters can often not be sorted out until taken to court. It is therefore essential, says Alexander, that occupational rental terms and conditions are agreed on in advance of the sale.

In some cases, says Alexander, homes are sold with tenants still in occupation. Here too, an agreement must be reached before transfer - and must be crystal clear.

"There have unfortunately been cases in which the tenant was expected to move out by an agreed date but failed to do so. It must be stipulated that in these cases the eviction of the tenant is now the new owner's responsibility, not that of the owner who originally accepted him as a tenant. Similarly, all rents in these cases should now be paid to the new owner and this must be agreed by all parties."


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