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“A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on” (Samuel Goldwyn)
Verbal agreements in South Africa are generally as binding and valid as written ones. Of course not recording your agreements in writing is a bad idea – oral agreements are a recipe for doubt and dispute, and proving the exact terms agreed on will be challenging if not impossible.
Moreover certain types of contract have to be in writing, and signed by all parties, to be valid at all. For example in South Africa an oral contract for the sale, exchange or donation of land, or of any “interest in land”, is unenforceable.
A recent High Court case shows the danger of overlooking this requirement…
Two properties, no right of way access
The bottom line
As always, when buying or selling property take legal advice before you sign anything, and remember to tell your attorney about any verbal agreements you have made. In this case, the oral right of way agreement should have been recorded in the written and signed agreement of sale, then registered against the title deeds in the Deeds Office to ensure its enforceability “against the world” (thus including subsequent owners of the other property).
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