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What the Consumer Protection Act means for Property Buyers

The legal principle around buying and selling has always been "let the buyer beware".  In terms of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which came into force on 1 April this year, that changes: it's now "Seller beware".

This fundamentally changes the way business is done, in that it puts the burden on businesses to transform themselves into "customer-friendly" operations, making all interactions fully transparent.  If a customer feels cheated, it's the seller or service provider who is presumed guilty until proven innocent.

The CPA protects property buyers from unscrupulous estate agents.  For instance, estate agents now have to ensure that potential buyers are fully informed regarding the condition of any property they buy.  The 'voetstoots' clause in an Offer to Purchase will no longer protect estate agents from the perils of non-disclosure.

Another benefit for buyers is that estate agents can be prosecuted for making false claims about a property, for instance that it has been zoned for certain uses, or that plans have been approved to make alterations.

It is important to note that the CPA is limited to transactions concluded as part of a regular business.  Private sellers, therefore, are not held to the terms of the CPA.