Avoid wrangles over occupational rent

Private Property South Africa
Cathy Nolan

When you've sold your home, the last thing you want is a disagreement with the buyer about the occupation date or occupational rental. However, such disputes do arise – and usually because the buyer and seller have privately changed the arrangements set down in the occupation clause of their sale agreement and neglected to commit these changes to writing.

Occupation dates are usually set at the month-end or month-start closest to the estimated date on which the transfer of the property will be registered, so that both seller and buyer can make firm plans about furniture removals, service cut-off dates and phone, address and school changes, for example. But the seller may perhaps find a new home sooner than he expected, or need to take up a position in another town, and then decide offer the buyer the opportunity to occupy his home earlier than stated in the sale agreement.

However, unless they put their new arrangement in writing, the buyer might well resist paying any occupational rental other than that originally stated in the sale agreement – on the grounds that he had simply done the seller a favour by moving in earlier.

Alternatively, the buyer might ask for, and get, an earlier occupation date, especially if he is currently renting accommodation and nearing the end of a lease. “And this, too, will need to be put in writing, so that there is no risk of the seller changing his mind at the last minute and leaving the buyer out in the cold for a month or two.

What is recommended in such cases is that the estate agent who negotiated the original sale agreement be asked to draw up an addendum noting the new occupation arrangements, and get it signed by both seller and buyer.

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