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Thread: The beetle clause as used in the Western Cape

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    The beetle clause as used in the Western Cape

    I've always found it curious that different beetle (or entomological clearance) clauses for property sales agreements are used in different parts of the country. In truth, there is some variance between clauses between different agencies even if they are operating in the same region.

    But this article raises some very interesting points about the dangers of the beetle clause as it is commonly set out in the Western Cape. Here are a few excerpts:
    Ask any person in the process of purchasing a property if the presence of beetles on that property is a concern and you would probably get a definite 'No.' Quite possibly because for many years it was accepted that all properties on the coast were automatically inspected for the presence of wood destroying beetles. Given the migration of beetles and the prevalence of termites in most of the country though, many people are appreciating the value of having their properties inspected more regularly.


    So, choosing a SAPCA qualified inspector is crucial, especially for the purchaser. But even then one may not be entirely out of the danger zone as the fine print in your beetle clause may actually limit the certificate to only two of many potentially destructive organisms. It may be that the property in question has an infestation destroying the structure which is ignored because of a technicality. The purchaser will then have no recourse against the seller as he/she has accepted and signed a deed of sale that limits the beetle certificate to cover Hylotrupes Bajulus (Italian beetle) and Oxypleuris Nodieri (brown house borer) only or alternatively the misnomer, 'notifiable beetle'. (This term derives from a law promulgated more than 20 years ago that stipulated that the Department of Plant Protection and Seed Control should be notified of the occurrence of various species of beetles. Although this included most beetle species, these were classified into categories according to the risks posed and somehow over time the term 'notifiable' was accepted to refer only to Hylotrupes Bajulus and Oxypleuris Nodieri.)

    But what if the property's roof and eaves or floors and joinery were riddled with Anobium Punctatum (cmmon frniture betle), Lyctus Brunneus (powder post beetle) Bostrycidae spp. (shot hole borer) Phoracantha (eucalyptus borer) or Stenocellis Hylostoides, Nicobium Castaniun, Ernobius Molus or Xylocopidae Spp (carpenter bee)? Not to mention the insidious destruction of fungal decay like brown and white rots which, if left unchecked, will not stop until all the timber in the surrounding areas is affected.
    read the full article on Property24.com here
    One has to question the logic of limiting the scope of the seller's liability to a couple of species when there is a very real potential for other wood-destroying organisms of economic significance to be present. The motivation for paying any attention to this at all is not centered around the species; it's their potential to cause significant damage that is at issue.

    Failure to address this is a disservice to:
    • The purchaser - who has a perfectly understandable reluctance to unknowingly inherit such a problem, and
    • The bank - which has a perfectly understandable reluctance to rely on a property which is infested with such organisms to remain adequate collateral on their loan.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    I hauled out my contracts to have a look at this. Seeff's contract only specifies the two beetles as per the article. The attorney's contract specifies the following,

    all accessible timbers on the Property shall be inspected for infestation by wood-destroying beetles, termites and, in the Western Cape, fungi;
    It also says it must be carried out by an SAPCA registered inspector and a report must be issue to buyer and seller. Interestingly enough only a COC was issued to me, but no report....hmmm.

    I assume that the attorney's transfer contract is the official one which would hold sway.

    Two questions here,
    1. how often should a home be inspected for beetle etc. infestations?, and
    2. What about inaccessible timbers?
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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsd View Post
    I hauled out my contracts to have a look at this. Seeff's contract only specifies the two beetles as per the article. The attorney's contract specifies the following,
    all accessible timbers on the Property shall be inspected for infestation by wood-destroying beetles, termites and, in the Western Cape, fungi;
    It also says it must be carried out by an SAPCA registered inspector and a report must be issue to buyer and seller.
    That actually sounds like it covers all the bases rather well. I think the Seef clause is national, and very good too.
    Quote Originally Posted by dsd View Post
    Interestingly enough only a COC was issued to me, but no report....hmmm.
    A well worded COC should include a phrase along the lines of "To be read in conjunction with inspection report (ref no.)"
    Quote Originally Posted by dsd View Post
    I assume that the attorney's transfer contract is the official one which would hold sway.
    Normally the clauses are contained in the Offer to purchase document, which becomes the contract of standing once the seller has signed acceptance thereof. (This assumes there has been no counter offer process etc.).
    Quote Originally Posted by dsd View Post
    how often should a home be inspected for beetle etc. infestations?
    Now that depends on a whole host of factors. Age, location, vulnerability, how long you intend to keep the property, degree of paranoia...

    It certainly does not hurt to get the buildings checked over every couple of years in a low risk area, just in case something is sneaking up on you. But in high risk areas with serious subterranean termite vulnerability, I've had clients wanting the risk areas checked every three months.
    Quote Originally Posted by dsd View Post
    What about inaccessible timbers?
    This is something of a balancing act between the potential of there being infestation in an inaccessible area when there is no evidence of infestation in the accessible areas - and the cost of opening up those inaccessible areas (and repairing the resultant damage of doing so) for inspection .

    In practice, we look at the accessible areas and if there is no evidence of infestation there, we cannot assume there is infestation in the inaccessible areas. However, if we do find infestation in the accessible areas, we must assume there is infestation in the inaccessible areas and frame our recommendations accordingly.

    In the main this refers to roof areas where the roof cover (tiles, iron sheeting etc.) rest on top of, and the ceiling underneath is afixed to the same timber rafters. Inaccessible areas should be listed in the report - ie. the excluded areas should be identifiable from the report.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    A well worded COC should include a phrase along the lines of "To be read in conjunction with inspection report (ref no.)"
    Yip, it does include that comment, but how does one go about getting the report?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    It certainly does not hurt to get the buildings checked over every couple of years in a low risk area, just in case something is sneaking up on you.
    How do you find out about the risk levels of your area?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    This is something of a balancing act between the potential of there being infestation in an inaccessible area when there is no evidence of infestation in the accessible areas - and the cost of opening up those inaccessible areas (and repairing the resultant damage of doing so) for inspection.
    I was thinking in particular here about floor boards. Obviously you can see the top of the floor board, but I would guess (uneducated) that if something was going to happen, it would start on the non-varnished underside of the wood, and you wouldn't know if until it was far too late.
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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsd View Post
    Yip, it does include that comment, but how does one go about getting the report?
    Ask the conveyancor. They should have a copy on record. Or even the company who supplied the COC. I'm sure either will oblige.
    Quote Originally Posted by dsd View Post
    How do you find out about the risk levels of your area?
    I just knew you were going to ask that.

    You mention floorboards - which normally means an older house with untreated structural timber present. This means you might be vulnerable to beetle attack. Unfortunately, I don't know the hotspots of Cape Town - areas where beetle infestations might be considered endemic. The good news is that beetle infestations tend to progress fairly slowly. Maintenance inspections about every 2-5 years should suffice dependant on the general level of problems in your immediate area.

    Happily, you do not have much to fear from subterranean termites in your location.
    Quote Originally Posted by dsd View Post
    I was thinking in particular here about floor boards. Obviously you can see the top of the floor board, but I would guess (uneducated) that if something was going to happen, it would start on the non-varnished underside of the wood, and you wouldn't know if until it was far too late
    If there is no access to the crawl space under the floor boards, you really should think about getting access to this area. It is one of the high risk areas, particularly as the furniture beetles are present in Cape Town.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    I'll phone Inspecto who did the inspection and chat with them, see if they can give me the report, and fill me in on the risk levels.

    Oh, how long do you keep the reports on file for?
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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsd View Post
    Oh, how long do you keep the reports on file for?
    After 5 years, keeping them might seem irrelevant. But I'm not aware of anyone having a policy to dispose of them after a set period of time. So realistically, with good record keeping systems, they don't really disappear.

    Of course, there are the normal record hazards; fires, hard drive failures, business closes down, insect and fungal damage
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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