What you need to know: Alien vegetation must be disclosed by sellers of property

The regulations of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act of 2004 contains one section of particular interest to property owners and their estate agents, says Annette Evans, regional general manager of the Institute of Estate Agents, Western Cape.

Section 29 of the Regulations deals with the sale or transfer of alien and listed invasive species and subsection 1 says that "if a permit-holder sells a specimen of an alien or listed invasive species or the property where it is under its control, the new owner must apply for a permit under Chapter 7 of the Act, which shall in terms of subsection (2) be subject to the same conditions as the previous permit holder unless specific circumstances requires a revision of the permit conditions".

Subsection 3 requires that: "The seller of an immovable property must, prior to the conclusion of the relevant sale agreement, notify the purchaser of such immovable property in writing of the presence of listed invasive species on that property".

Those who don't comply with the regulations are guilty of an offence and can be fined quite heftily, said Evans. The fines can be up to R5 million for a first offence and up to R10 million for a second offence.

If the owners know that there are alien vegetation species on their property and if it is not practical to remove it, they should have their agent or attorneys write it into the Deed of Sale that they have notified the buyers and have complied with their obligations in terms of the regulations, she said.

The regulations do not differentiate between freestanding property and sectional title schemes or HOA run properties, said Evans, so there is a question as to how the body corporates will have to deal with this issue. Common sense, she said, says that the owner would only have to disclose what is on his share of the scheme, and not the entire estate.

The list of invasive and alien vegetation is quite an extensive one but can be downloaded, along with the regulations from here

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