Areas of Practice

areas-of-practice

Areas of Practice

We draw on extensive experience in our respective fields of expertise to assist and guide our clients through the dense legislative framework that governs life and business in South Africa. DHM is a niche firm, specialising in the following disciplines:

Administrative Law

In terms of our national Constitution everyone has the fundamental right to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair and a plethora of statutes have been enacted by all spheres of government to give effect to this right. We have extensive experience in advising clients on the interpretation and application of these laws and on administrative action generally.

The services we render to clients in this field include the following:

  • Advice to clients affected by administrative decision-making:  We represent clients in proceeding before statutory bodies that regulate diverse areas of economic and social activity.  We further advise clients on matters such as requests for adequate reasons for decisions of competent authorities and for access to information held by government and private bodies.
  • Litigation and dispute resolution:  We represent clients in High Court litigation concerning the lawfulness of administrative action, including decisions by planning, heritage and environmental functionaries and the awarding of tenders.
  • Providing opinions on the lawfulness of administrative action: which is inclusive of the remedies available to clients subjected to unlawful administrative action;
  • Liaison with public bodies:  usually with the view to ensuring that due process is followed in respect of administrative action impacting on the rights and legitimate expectations of  clients;

Land Use Planning and Development

The pre-construction phase of property development is notorious for the complicated and somewhat disjointed statutory framework within which it functions. Uncertainty about land use planning issues very often delay development project to the extent that they become unfeasible. We provide assistance and advice on a wide range of matters in this regard and our services include the following:

  • Property development projects:  Our involvement ideally commences at the conceptualisation stage and we are then able to ensure that the land use, zoning, environment impact and permitting processes, heritage processes and related strategies are integrated into the project plan. On-going advice and assistance may be provided throughout the permitting processes and into the construction and commissioning stages of the project, including assistance in all aspects of project related litigation and in addressing administrative or other challenges to the project;
  • Conducting legal compliance investigations:   The investigation is conducted in relation to land use matters as part of the conceptualization phase of development project;
  • Liaising with and assisting professional consultants:  Examples of these consultants include engineers, architects, town planners and project managers instructed to investigate the development potential of properties.  We further assist town planners, engineer and architects with the legal aspects of land use planning and building plan applications to the relevant public bodies;
  • Advising public authorities and members of the public:  We offer advice on the adoption, implementation and interpretation of planning instruments, such as structure plans, spatial development frameworks, zoning schemes (such as the Integrated Zoning Scheme of the City of Cape Town) and planning by-laws;
  • Liaising with public officials at local and provincial level:  we are in regular contact with both authorities before and after submission of land use applications;
  • Applications and appeals:  Drafting of appeals and objections in respect of decisions or proposed decisions by planning authorities;
  • Litigation and dispute resolution:  Representing clients in High Court litigation about land use matters and building disputes, including applications for the review of decisions taken by planning authorities.
  • Advising interested and effected parties:  Advising and representing interested and affected parties, aggrieved by insensitive and unsustainable development;
  • Drafting opinions and providing expert legal advice:  We offer assistance and advice on matters such as land use rights and title conditions.


Environmental Law

The country’s changing legal and regulatory landscape seeks to protect the delicate resources while growing the economy, thereby promoting a harmony between the economic system and the ecosystem. At DHM, we have a practical understanding of both the law and its application by the regulators. We work closely with Environmental Assessment Practitioners, Environmental Scientists and with Engineers on impact and process related regulatory issues on a frequent basis.

We are able to assist you with the following:

  • Advice to Environmental Assessment Practitioners:  We provide advice to Environmental Assessment Practitioners and other consultants responsible for handling processes with all legal aspects of the application process for environmental approval, which includes the adequacy of the processes they have followed and the correctness of their process documents in terms of the requirements of the governing legislation. In order to ensure compliance we undertake legal reviews of process documents such as Basic Assessment Report, Scoping Reports, EIA Reports prior to their submission to the regulatory authorities;
  • Conducting legal compliance investigations:  This is done in relation to environmental matters as part of the conceptualisation phase of development project;
  • Environmental appeals and objections:  Drafting of appeals and objections in respect of decisions or proposed decisions by environmental authorities;
  • Liaising with public officials at local, provincial and national level:  We liaise with these authorities both before and after submission of applications for environmental approval;
  • Advising and representing interested and affected parties: We advise and represent those aggrieved by insensitive and unsustainable development;
  • Drafting opinions and providing expert legal advice:  Opinions and advice are given on matters such as the need for environmental approvals in respect of particular projects, the rights arising from environmental approvals already granted and the obligations of developers generally in respect of the environment;
  • Litigation and dispute resolution: We represent clients in High Court litigation about environmental matters, including applications for the review of decisions by environmental authorities.


Heritage Law

The impact on South Africa’s heritage resources is an increasingly important consideration when new property developments are conceptualised.  South African heritage legislation is concerned furthermore with the conservation of movable and intangible aspects of our cultural heritage. We advise clients on all aspects of heritage law and our services include the following:

  • Conducting legal compliance investigations:  We conduct legal compliance investigations in relation to heritage matters as part of the conceptualisation of development project;
  • Liaising with and assisting heritage consultants:  We assist Heritage consultants with the legal aspects of applications for approvals required from local, provincial and national heritage authorities;
  • Appeals and objections:  Drafting of appeals and objections in respect of decisions or proposed decisions by heritage authorities;
  • Liaising with public officials at local, provincial and national level:  We liaise with authorities before and after submission of applications for heritage approvals;
  • Advising and representing interested and affected parties: We advise and represent those aggrieved by developments that are insensitive to the cultural heritage;
  • Opinions and legal advice:  We draft opinions and providing expert legal advice on matters such as the need for approvals from heritage authorities in respect of particular projects and the rights arising from approvals already granted;
  • Litigation and dispute resolution:  We represent clients in High Court litigation about heritage matters, including applications for the review of decisions by heritage authorities.

Conveyancing

A Conveyancer is an attorney who has passed an additional, specialised examination and who has been admitted by the High Court of South Africa to practice as a Conveyancer.

Conveyancing is the transfer of title in land from one entity to another and includes the registration of mortgage bonds amongst others.  Our land registration system originates in Holland and is the only valid method of transferring property to a new owner (except in exeptional circumstances by operation of law) following the sale, bequeath, donation or otherwise of land.  Documents for transfer are prepared by a Conveyancer who will oversee the signing of the documents by the Parties.  Once the documents are in order and all other certificates have been obtained and laws have been complied with, the Conveyancer will lodge the documents at the Deeds Office.  The Deeds Office will examine the documents and if all is in order, registration will follow.

We provide assistance and advice on Conveyancing matters and our services include the following:

  • Advice on and drafting of agreements of sale;
  • Transfer of property;
  • Registration and cancellation of mortgage bonds;

General Property Law

A large contingent of our clients comes from the property development sector and the conclusion of contracts for the acquisition, sale and/or lease of immovable property form part of their day to day business.

We are able to assist you with the following:

  • Drafting of contracts:  The drafting and vetting of Agreements of Purchase and Sale, Agreements of Lease (Long Term and Conventional), Shareholders Agreements, Co-operation Agreements and of Company Resolutions;
  • Research and opinions:  Researching of the legality and statutory implications of new property investment models and we provide written and oral legal opinions on contractual relationships;
  • Litigation and disputes:  Advise in respect of contractual disputes and represent clients in High Court litigation regarding general property related matters.

Home Owners Associations and Sectional Titles Living

We represent Body Corporates, Home Owners Associations and residents of secure living complexes in a range of matters concerning Estate Living.  Whatever the dispute or reason for referral, we always strive to find a positive and cost-effective resolution to the dispute.

We are able to assist you with the following:

  • Drafting of Constitutions:  We assist developers and Trustees of Home Owners Associations with the drafting of their Constitution and Rules;
  • Advice regarding the interpretation of the Estate’s documents:  We assist residents and Trustees with the interpretation of their Constitution, Rules and Architectural Guidelines and the implications of the wording of such documents;
  • Dispute resolution / litigation:  We act in arbitrations, Home Owners Associations disputes for the Association and individual members;
  • Building in the Estate:  We advise the Association and/or members on building limitations;
  • Drafting and consideration of a contract of sale:  Drafting of, or consideration the implications of, a contract of sale (offer to purchase);
  • Drafting of a lease agreement:  Drafting lease agreements and advising on the implications of the lease agreement.

Estate Planning and Administration

The Planning of your Estate is a very personal matter which requires thorough consideration and careful planning.  The Will and Testament you draft and sign will contain your wishes in favour of those you wish to benefit and it follows that it needs to be drafted in a way that will give effect to your wishes.

To assist you with planning your Estate, we render the following services:

  • Drafting your Will and Testament:  The practical implications of your testamentary wishes will be explored with you in order to assist you to make the distribution choices that give effect to your wishes;
  • Reviewing your Will and Testament:  It is necessary for you to review your Will and Testament when your personal circumstances change.  We are able to assist you with any changes you wish to make.
  • Estate Administration:  Our firm or individual attorneys may be appointed as Executor of your Estate in your Will, or we may be of assistance to your chosen Executor as agent, in the administration and finalisation of your Estate.

Trusts

Trusts in general hold and invest property and/or assets for the benefit of its beneficiaries.  Trusts are managed by Trustees who stand in a fiduciary relationship to the beneficiaries and whose powers are governed by the Trust Deed.

We are able to assist you with the following:

  • The establishment of a inter vivos Trust:  We assist our clients in the drafting of the Trust Deed and the application process to the Master of the High Court;
  • Advice regarding your responsibilities and the administration of a Trust:  We offer advice on the appointment and removal of Trustees, general Trustee responsibilities, the accountability of Trustees and other areas of Trust administration;
  • Testamentary Trusts:  A Testamentary Trust is created by virtue of a Will and Testament and is usually created for the benefit of minor beneficiaries or those beneficiaries who cannot handle their own affairs at that point in time (as a result of mental incapacity, addiction, personality etc.).  We believe that this type of Trust requires as much consideration as an inter vivos Trust and that the Will and Testament should adequately provide the “tools” for the Trustees to manage the finances in the best interest of the beneficiaries.

 

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