General discussion of property contracts

What is a contract?

A contract is an agreement between two or more people in terms  of which one party offers to do, deliver or not do something,  and the other part accepts this offer. Usually the part who accepts the offer must remunerate the other party or do something  in exchange.

2. What are the requirements for a valid contract?

For a valid contract the following must occur:
The parties must agree on all the essential terms thereof. One of the parties must make a firm offer to the other party and acceptance of the offer must in turn be communicated to the party who made the offer.
The parties to the contract  must have the legal power to conclude such an agreement.
 Minors, (persons under 18) or people who are mentally ill, for instance, may not enter into contracts.
Parties may  not contract to do something illegal.

3. Must all contracts be in writing to be valid?

No. The most common of all misconceptions concerning contracts  is that they must be in written form to be valid. If this were so, the majority of all contracts concluded daily would  be invalid. Purchasing good, going to movies, using public transport and eating at a restaurant are examples of activities
 that include the conclusion of valid contracts as no specific legal formalities (such as reducing the contract to writing) are required. There are, however, exceptions and in certain specific instances the law requires that the contract be in  written form. If the parties do not comply with this requirement  and one of the parties is unhappy with the outcome of the arrangement, then the arrangement cannot be enforced in some  of the instances where writing is a requirement. Some important  examples of contracts that must be in writing, with or without  other formalities, are marriage contracts, donations, sale of  land (of which the hire purchase agreement is an example).

4. What are the advantages of reducing a contract to writing,  if the law does not require this in the specific instance?


The terms or contents of a contract are easily proved if the contract is reduced properly to writing. Remember that an attorney draws up contracts as part of his daily work and is  thus able to express more clearly in writing what the parties  intend. A party relying on an oral contract will probably have  difficulty in proving the contents in a court of law.

5. What are the pitfalls of signing a written contract that has  been drawn up by the other party?


The contract could contain terms that were not part of the verbal  negotiations and which are included solely for the benefit of the other party. Conversely, the contract might not contain terms  or stipulations to your benefit which were agreed upon during the verbal negotiations. Remember: when in doubt, consult an
attorney and go through written agreements very carefully. Never  sign a contract without reading it merely because you are in a hurry or want to rid yourself of an irritating salesman.

6. What is breach of contract?


This means that one of the parties has in fact broken the agreement  in one or more of the following ways:
He has not done or delivered what he promised in terms of the contract.
He has not  paid for goods delivered by the other party.
He has refused to  carry out the contract.
He has prevented the other party from doing or delivering what the other party must do or deliver according
 to the contract.
He has delivered or done what he promised to do  in terms of the contract but his performance is defective and is completely useless or only of partial use to the other party.
He  has, in fact prevented himself from being able to perform in terms  of the contract.
Where a party to a contract has breached the agreement, the innocent party should consult an attorney who will institute an action if necessary.

7. What may the purchaser do if he buys something that has a hidden  fault?


The law states that the seller is responsible or liable for and hidden or latent faults that exist in the article bought if they  were present at the time of sale. Purchasers should beware of buying something that is sold "voetstoots" or "as is" or "as it stands" because in selling this way the seller has excluded his
 responsibility or liability for any hidden faults.

8. What is a warranty or guarantee and how does it affect the buyer?


This is usually a statement made about a product by the seller  which he promises to make good. For example, the seller may
warrant that a particular television set he is selling will  not break down in four years. If it does, then the seller will not break down in four years. If it does, then the seller  must make good his promise and repair the unit at no extra charge. Purchasers should beware of guarantees that absolve the seller from liability for hidden defects in the article bought in exchange for relatively little protection for the  buyer. Remember that not all or any representations made by  a seller are guarantees. Therefore, ask the seller exactly  what he means by a certain statement that relates to the product.

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Park street Law Chambers
Park Street 755
Arcadia
Pretoria
Gauteng
0001
South-Africa

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