Views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent a legal opinion
It feels like a lifetime since I’ve posted. Gardens and fields have burst into technicolour, and settled into a state of simply being – waiting for the harsh heat, which will also certainly come and go.
The past couple of months have taken me through high hopes and low lyings, and at the end of it, the only “progress” is that my application for Special Performance has now been placed on the High Court’s opposed roll, and a date has been set: 17 April. It’s been 5 months since the seller – Janet Earl – and / or conveyancing attorney (turned litigator) – Leon van Rensburg – “cancelled” the sale of the property of which I am the legal purchaser, where I have satisfied all suspensive conditions and towards which I have paid almost R1.4 million in deposits and transfer fees (and which I occupy with my three children). Mortgage bond ready to be registered, cash balance ready to be paid out. Registration at the deeds office.
I’ve shared some moments from my experience in the past – have a read by starting with my first blog (link on the bottom of the Home, Interrupted blog page) if you have the appetite or if you’re new here. Right now, after a second failed mediation, I’m staring at another letter from Leon van Rensburg, and I have to remind myself of this: I cannot control this angry ocean which I find myself in, but I can control my breathing, I can keep stroking even if it feels like I’m moving in all directions except going forward, and I can hand over to my higher self who will not falter as it is committed to truth and justice.
More than a month ago, I requested a statement of my funds invested in van Rensburg’s trust account. These funds consist of a R300k deposit paid to secure the property, and +- R711k paid towards transfer and conveyancing fees. At first he failed to respond, and only after a final demand did he release the statement, together with a letter in which he (amongst many other things) states that my money now belongs to Janet Earl, because the contract was cancelled. Mr van Rensburg’s confidence is admirable, but there is also the question of the outcome of the court case(s) which is only scheduled for the future, and therefore one – especially an officer of the law – is obliged to await an outcome before claiming one’s prize.
OK, so this was actually only one of my concerns around what the statement revealed. My attorney responded with a demand for information regarding a number of transactions which were confusing and potentially irregular. We demanded an urgent response from Van Renburg (who himself is very fond of setting unilateral deadlines in his correspondence about mostly anything), who casually informed us that he would pay attention to our “very long letter” about “mostly unnecessary issues” sometime in the following week. He did not do so, so I reported him with the Legal Practice Council (LPC).
I will publish the reports and statements when the time is right to do so. The main irregularity was this: R133,912.38 was taken from my funds in trust on 21 April to pay Ms Earl’s outstanding rates and taxes account with the City of Cape Town. It is necessary for these accounts to be settled before the City would issue a rates clearance certificate, which is required for a property transfer to be lodged. This account was obviously not my responsibility, yet, my money was used to pay for it, without my permission. It was paid back into my account the day after I requested the statement, namely on the 4th of October.
This serious concern has now finally been addressed by van Rensburg, who would have received a demand from the LPC last week. I quote from his letter:
“Before we made payment of the amount due for the municipal account, we requested the seller to pay it and we also recorded it in writing to her. She was supposed to make that payment. Without the knowledge of the undersigned, the amount of R133 912.38 was paid to the City of Cape Town, from the funds held in our trust account, before the seller paid the amount into our trust account. The conveyancer who dealt with this transaction, Ms Dean, failed to follow this non-payment up with the seller, as she should have done. She acknowledges that this was an administrative error on her part. It was not done intentionally. When the undersigned drafted the letter to your offices of 3 October 2022, I noticed this oversight and immediately addressed it with Ms Dean and the seller. Although the seller was not strictly liable to pay it into our trust account anymore (as all amounts in trust were forfeited in her favour on 10 June 2022, against cancellation in the sale agreement), I also knew it would be raised by you and I insisted that she pay it, to show you the amount on the bank statement. The undersigned also specifically pointed this out to you in our letter of 3 October 2022 (paragraph 7 thereof). If we intended to hide the facts surrounding it, or if we had dishonest intentions, we would not have specifically pointed it out to you, or acted as we did with the seller, when the undersigned drafted the letter of 3 October 2022.”
So it was really just a little mistake by van Rensburg’s employee – a friendly conveyancer called Vanessa Dean. I’m sure Janet Earl must have thanked her lucky stars in April for this mysterious gift. According to them, my money is theirs anyway (and so is the house), so it’s much of a muchness. I quote from the same letter addressed to my lawyer: “Your client has no funds in our trust account. All funds held in our trust account for your client were forfeited in favour of the seller on 10 June 2022.” This, according to Van Rensburg, includes the R630k transfer duty which has been paid to SARS. I truly hope that the LPC will be Abel to weigh in on this sooner than our April court date…
My legal fees have exceeded the R300k mark, a quarter of my life savings are in the hands of the conveyancer who – after paying himself out for the full conveying fee from my funds in trust, despite refusing to transfer the property into my name, is now litigating against me, with all his might, I might add.
Staring the storm in the eye places you squarely in the middle of it. Alone, exposed and vulnerable. I just have to swim. Harder and harder with each stroke. Exhaustion simply has to wait. And so do I, for what I believe must be justice, and so I will. And I will also write my book, share my truth, love my kids and show them how I believe you show up in this world, but leave it up to them to decide how deep they might want to dive one day. Thank you to everyone who has been supporting me so far – old friends and new ones, my incredible attorney Andrew MacPherson, and always, the water.
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