Mortgage foreclosure under the constitution : property, housing and the National Credit Act

Brits, Reghard (2012-12)

Thesis (LLD)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Includes bibliography

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The forced transfer of immovable property to enforce judgment debts by way of sale in execution has constitutional implications. Firstly, if the property is residential, section 26 of the Constitution (the housing clause) raises the question whether the current legal framework takes sufficient account of the imperative to respect people‟s access to adequate housing. Read with section 36 (the limitation clause), the requirement is that someone‟s home may only be violated if the result is proportionate based on all the relevant circumstances. Secondly, since the home qualifies as “property” for purposes of the section 25 (the property clause), the law that regulates this forced sale may not permit the arbitrary deprivation of property. In other words, it is necessary to also investigate whether the sale in execution of debtors‟ property satisfies the section 25(1) non-arbitrariness test. Therefore, the research problem that this dissertation addresses revolves around the implications of sections 25 and 26 of the Constitution for the “normal” sale-in-execution process. More specifically, the scope of the investigation is limited to forced transfers of residential property as a result of mortgage foreclosure. What makes this perspective interesting is that, in addition to the debtor‟s constitutional rights, the creditor also enjoys constitutional protection by virtue of the limited real right (the mortgage) that is registered over the debtor‟s home. This real security right is also “property” that is worthy of recognition under section 25. To the extent that the National Credit Act places obstacles in the way of creditors‟ right to enforce their debts, this interference may also amount to a deprivation of property, which must satisfy the requirements of the property clause. This dissertation shows that the traditional common law framework of mortgage foreclosure does not give full effect to debtors‟ sections 25 and 26 rights. Nevertheless, based on the subsidiarity principles, I argue that a development of the common law or the creation of unique constitutional defences is not called for. The reason for this submission is that the debt relief mechanisms of the National Credit Act already provide constitutionally appropriate relief for debtors who face the loss of their properties. The available mechanisms – including debt review, debt rearrangement and the right to reinstate credit agreements – are aimed at resolving the root of mortgage foreclosure, namely over-indebtedness. This approach will ensure that mortgage foreclosures have a constitutionally valid and proportionate effect on the rights of both parties to the mortgage relationship.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die afdwinging van vonnisskulde by wyse van die verkoop in eksekusie van onroerende eiendom is ‟n gedwonge oordrag van eiendom met grondwetlike implikasies. Eerstens, waar die eiendom residensieël is, verg artikel 26 van die Grondwet (die behuisingsklousule) dat die huidige regsraamwerk voldoende rekenskap sal gee van die opdrag om mense se toegang tot geskikte behuising te respekteer. Saamgelees met artikel 36 (die beperkingsklousule), mag daar slegs op iemand se reg van toegang tot behuising inbreuk gemaak word indien die impak regverdigbaar is met inagneming van al die relevante omstandighede. Tweedens, aangesien die huis kwalifiseer as “eiendom” vir doeleindes van artikel 25 (die eiendomsklousule), mag die regsreëls wat eksekusieverkope reguleer nie arbitrêre ontnemings van eiendom toelaat nie. Met ander woorde, dit is nodig om ondersoek in te stel of die verkoop in eksekusie van skuldenaars se wonings aan artikel 25(1) se nie-arbitrêrheidstoets voldoen. Die navorsingsprobleem behels dus die implikasies van artikels 25 en 26 van die Grondwet vir die “normale” verkoop-in-eksekusie proses. Die omvang van die ondersoek is spesifiek beperk tot oordragte van residensiële eiendom as gevolg van die oproep van verbande. Wat hierdie perspektief verder interessant maak, tesame met die feit dat skuldenaars grondwetlike regte het, is die feit dat skuldeisers ook grondwetlike beskerming geniet ten aansien van die beperkte saaklike reg (die verband) wat geregistreer is oor die skuldenaar se huis. Hierdie saaklike sekerheidsreg is ook “eiendom” wat erkenning verdien in terme van artikel 25. Vir sover as wat skuldeisers se vermoë om hul skulde af te dwing deur die Nasionale Kredietwet aan bande gelê word, mag hierdie beperkinge moontlik ook op ‟n ontneming van eiendom neerkom. Gevolglik moet hierdie skuldverligtingsmeganismes ook aan die vereistes van die eiendomsklousule voldoen. Hierdie proefskrif wys daarop dat die tradisionele gemeenregtelike raamwerk vir die oproep van verbande nie ten volle effek gee aan skuldenaars se regte onder artikels 25 en 26 nie. Nietemin, met beroep op die subsidiariteitsbeginsels argumenteer ek dat ‟n ontwikkeling van die gemenereg of die skep van unieke grondwetlike remedies nie in hierdie konteks toelaatbaar is nie. Die rede hiervoor is dat die Nasionale Kredietwet se skuldverligtingsmeganismes reeds voorsiening maak vir grondwetlik aanvaarbare verligting vir skuldenaars wat deur die moontlike verlies van hul eiendomme in die gesig gestaar word. Die beskikbare maatreëls – insluitend skuldhersiening, skuldherstrukturering en die reg om kredietooreenkomste te laat herleef – is gemik daarop om die oorsaak van verbandoproeping aan te spreek, naamlik oorverskuldigdheid. Hierdie benadering sal verseker dat die oproep van verbande ‟n grondwetlik geldige en proporsionele effek op die regte van beide partye het.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/71814
This item appears in the following collections: