Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group, says homeowners also need to avoid these five hazards:
* Failing to pay your taxes. “Your local authority can go to court and get a debt judgment against you if you don’t pay your property rates, and although it is usually a last resort, SARS can also have your property attached if you don’t pay your income tax,” he notes. “There are also hefty penalties for not paying tax, so even if you can reach an agreement to pay off the debt and prevent your home from being auctioned, it is likely to cost you a lot more than the original tax bill.”
What is more, you can’t escape your tax liabilities by selling your home. The municipality will most likely not issue a clearance certificate to finalise a transfer to a new owner unless all rates and service charges due by you have been paid. And SARS is entitled to take whatever percentage of the sale proceeds is required to pay off any outstanding income tax amounts.
* Failing to pay your monthly sectional title levies or home owner’s association dues. “Legally,” says Everitt, “the body corporate of your sectional title complex or the HOA of your estate can have your unit attached and sold off to settle arrear levies, even if you have a bond on the property and have been paying your home loan instalments.
“The bank will get any proceeds of the sale left after your levy arrears have been paid and you will still be liable to pay any outstanding portion of the home loan.”
* Applying for voluntary sequestration, otherwise known as filing for bankruptcy. If your home is registered in your name, it will be considered as an asset in your insolvent estate, and the trustees appointed by the court will be obliged to sell it to try to realise at least the amount outstanding on your home loan or, if you don’t have a loan, to settle some of your other debts.
* Engaging in illegal activities. Under South African law (Chapter 6 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act), the National Public Prosecutor can apply for any property used in the commission of a crime, or believed to have been purchased with the proceeds of crime, to be attached and forfeited to the State.
* Standing surety for someone else’s debt, or for the debts of a business. “If the other person or the business defaults in such cases, the creditors will be entitled to come after you personally or attach your private assets to settle the debts, and there is a very real possibility of losing your home,” says Everitt. “You should therefore be very wary of ever acting as surety for anyone else, even your own children or parents.”