The Appellant was the owner of immovable property (“the Property”) situated in Sandton. The First Respondent was Standard Bank South Africa, Limited; and the Second Respondent was the conveyancing attorney who was responsible for cancelling the bonds on the aforesaid Property (“the Conveyancing Attorneys”). The Appellant sold the Property to a third party at an agreed purchase price of R3 million. Of the agreed purchase price, the Appellant was to receive R2.9 million with the balance of R100 000 being paid to the estate agent as commission.
The period for having the bonds cancelled over the property, for same to be transferred and for the purchase price to be paid to the Appellant was one year. Frustrated by this delay, the Appellant instituted action proceedings in the Magistrates Court (“the Court a quo”) in which he claimed damages against the Respondents in respect of interest lost on the net price of R2.9 million. The Appellant alleged that the delay was partially caused by the unprofessional conduct of the Conveyancing Attorneys. The aforesaid claim was upheld and Judgment was granted against the Respondents in the sum of R42 713.42, being the amount of damages the parties had agreed should be awarded in the event of the claim succeeding. The Respondents successfully appealed to the Johannesburg High Court (“the High Court”) which set aside the Court a quo’s ruling and substituted an order absolving the Respondents from the instance, together with costs.
The Supreme Court of Appeal set aside the ruling of the High Court and emphasised that not every act which caused harm to another was actionable in terms of delict and that the action complained of must be wrongful in order for it to be actionable. Wrongfulness was conceded. The Conveyancing Attorneys were held liable towards the Appellant for damages sustained as a result of the delay in the registration of ownership of the property in the name of the purchaser.
Like any other professional, a conveyancer may make mistakes. But not every mistake is to be equated with negligence, and in a claim against a conveyancer based on negligence it must be shown that the conveyancer’s mistake resulted from a failure to exercise that degree of skill and care that would have been exercised by a reasonable conveyancer in the same position.
A conveyancer may be liable for damages suffered by a seller of property due to delays.