The presence of an Internet connection can be a major consideration for South African property buyers, especially considering the better performance and pricing offered by fibre compared to legacy technology.
This was true in the case of a MyBroadband reader who was looking at purchasing a home in Cape Town in July 2018.
A major criterion for this purchase was that the area in which his potential home was located should either have fibre installed or be in the fibre rollout stage.
The reader found a home which showed that it was currently under the “build in progress” area on the Vumatel fibre coverage map.
He put in an offer on the home and was successful, and then contacted Vumatel to pre-order his fibre line.
Vumatel confirmed his pre-order and said that it would be starting shortly with the work in his area.
The reader moved into his new home in November 2018, and this is when the trouble started.
Vumatel rolled out fibre to the rest of his suburb and assured him that his area would be done later, but to date they have not rolled out to his home.
There is a fibre conduit 30 metres away from his house, but Vumatel has now told him that they do not plan to roll out fibre any further, leaving him without a connection.
Additionally, the coverage map on Vumatel’s website has changed.
Where it used to show that the reader’s house was under the “build in progress” area, it now shows the property as outside of the company’s fibre network.
The homeowner said the availability of fibre was a major factor in his decision to purchase the property, and since finding out that Vumatel would not roll out fibre to his home, he has placed his home back on the market.
MyBroadband contacted Vumatel regarding this case, and the fibre infrastructure provider said that roll-out changes are very rare, but can happen.
“The coverage map is maintained and updated frequently, to ensure as close to real-time accuracy as possible,” Vumatel told MyBroadband.
“It does make provision for areas where a build is still in progress and/or where residents can show interest. There are many factors that can result in the change of a roll-out, although this is very rare.”
No specific details regarding this case were provided, although the immutability of a fibre coverage map does mean that users should be extremely thorough when considering buying a house in a potential coverage area.
Specifically, it would be of great benefit to ensure that fibre is either already active or will roll out with any problems.
MyBroadband spoke to Norton Rose Fulbright senior associate Chloe Merrington about any possible recourse for homeowners in a similar situation.
“If there is a breach of contract or an occurrence or omission relating to the subject matter of the contract, which is material and goes to the root of that contract, the purchaser may have recourse in the form of being able to cancel the contract,” Merrington said.
“In this instance, the homeowner would not have any recourse against the seller of the property unless the homeowner included a condition in the sale agreement that the area/property would have fibre installation in place.”
“Such a condition should have required fulfilment of the fibre installation prior to the transfer of the property, especially considering that the seller has no control over whether fibre is installed,” she said.
She said it is unlikely that a homeowner in this situation would have any recourse against the fibre company, as the company was not party to the sale agreement for the property.
“Regardless of the timing of the homeowner’s inquiries/applications to the fibre company, the fibre company was not a party to the sale agreement, nor would they have been aware of the fact that the purchaser allegedly only purchased the property because of the advertisement of fibre.”
Merrington added that it is unlikely that the customer would be able to force the fibre company to roll out even if he had pre-ordered his line, as the company would have liability clauses in place to account for this situation.
“Purchasers (of property and fibre contracts) should be careful to read the terms and conditions of the contract carefully to understand their rights, remedies and obligations and well as the rights, remedies and obligations of the other party (a seller or fibre company).”