The law is a complex topic to deal with but can also be very interesting, and indeed exciting, when you understand it.
I would like to believe that during the course of this year, I have shared some informative and insightful column pieces to help ensure greater appreciation for and understanding of the law, specifically in terms of the laws of Botswana, and how these can work to support us in both sticky and positive situations.
I have tried to cover some of the burning issues that affect us, our friends, our families and our communities.
This month, I would like to tackle things just a little differently. In this column, we seek guidance from one of Legal Guard’s most experienced in-house attorney, KeneilweLephalo.
RraMolao: Most of my columns have been issues affecting family (parents and children).
As the year ends, there is a hive of activities that take place both socially, financially and, economically.
It is a time of travel, and when we think of travel as holidays for the festive season, some of us is travel on transfer at work from one place/area to another.
One of my columns was about the Lease Agreement. This is a great topic to talk about to kick off our conversation.
It is also a bit confusing for some, as many still struggle with the terminology. Even where the employer is giving you accommodation, you still have to sign some form of lease agreement.
What is a lease and what is the role it plays when one rents a property?
Keneilwe: Indeed it is a great topic to discuss and I do understand that many people who may never have rented a property before might be a bit in the dark here.
For example, my grandmother rents the house she is living in. She has a landlord (who owns the house) and there is a lease agreement between my grandmother and her landlord.
The lease dictates the nature of their agreement, noting conditions and terms of the allowed use of the asset and the required maintenance terms.
RraMolao: Thank you, Keneilwe. I believe that might help some. Now, what we are saying is that a lease agreement is essentially a type of contract.
It is a binding agreement. As with all contracts, understanding what it is you are entering into is key.
What guidance can you give our readers on this?
Keneilwe: That’s correct – a lease agreement is a type of contract.
A contract can be drafted in a way that it favours the other party, and in the event of a dispute, you could be in a very difficult position.
Contractual language includes subtleties that are often missed by an untrained eye. You need to be clear and confident before you sign on that dotted line.
And remember, you are welcomed to ask questions. The basic contents of a lease contract includes amongst other things, the following;
a) The name of the parties and their addresses and contacts;
b) The description of the property and usage
c) The amount of the rent and the due date thereof; penalties if the tenant does not pay within the agreed period;
d) The maintenance of the property;
e) The duration of the lease agreement;
f) The rental increment;
g) What happens when one party breaches the agreement;
h) The termination clause.
It is standard courtesy to be allowed a reasonable time to review a contract before being asked to sign it and if that courtesy is not afforded to you, raise the issue.
RraMolao: Thank you for that insight. Another topic that continues to dominate public conversation is that of marriage and divorce.
With divorce rates increasing in recent years, what can you share about the nature of divorce proceedings and trends in Botswana?
Keneilwe: Botswana law states that an applicant can file for divorce on one of the 4 grounds provided by the relevant act; that is: Adultery; Unreasonable behaviour; Desertion for a period exceeding 2 years; and Living apart for a continuous period of more than 2 years and with the other party consenting to the divorce.
At Legal Guard we see no less than 20 cases of divorce cases every month coming through our doors. Our stance is always clear: divorce ought to be the last option in a failing or troubled marriage. Divorce involves complicated decisions that are related to children and property and for this reason (amongst many others), it is advisable to seek legal advice when you are in this kind of situation.
Any licensed, reputable divorce or general practicing lawyer can advise on this.
RraMolao: A relevant source stated that adultery and desertion of partners continue to rank as major factors in the increase in divorce cases and this is really sad.
This then bears influence on the very real issue we face as Batswana as regards custody disputes.
As a legal expert, what are your views on to the issue of custody disputes and their prevalence?
Keneilwe: Custody dispute is a complex type of case that courts encounter. It is also interesting in the sense that it can be resolved out-of-court.
It is wise to opt for resolution through informal negotiations, through use of out-of-court alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
Moreover, mediation is an effective tool for resolving child custody matters without causing more heartache for a child and tension between the parents.
The process of mediation sees both parents, accompanied by their attorneys, meet with a neutral third party to discuss issues related to child custody.
This reduces the burden and pain for the child, through a more amicable discussion.
RraMolao: This was really an informative and insightful chat.
I’m usually the one sharing the insight and information, and I believe our readers will benefit this month from an additional source of knowledge.
As we enter the New Year, there is much for Batswana to take to heart from our recent learnings. Any last words before we close our conversation?
Keneilwe: I think the key takeaway here is simply to make careful and considered decisions.
Over the festive break, be careful, be alert, and be vigilant, as crime and financial crime are a key concern.
And as we enter the New Year, remember what RraMolao has been sharing throughout recent months and apply these.
For many, this is when one moves into a new home or buys a new car, getting married or even filing for divorce etc.
Read your contracts carefully because even marriage is a contract. Visit an attorney for guidance, and ask the right questions.
Start the year off on the right foot, and ensure your legal expenses insurance is intact and active. Quite simply, we need to take our future into our own hands in every regard. Thank you.
RraMolao: Friends, Happy Holidays to you all! Be safe and keep in mind that the law is your guide.
Most important at this time of the year, let us all observe our traffic laws.
This monthly column is part of a consumer education drive by Legal Guard.