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Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Is you biggest investment safeguarded against beetle attack?

Beetle and Electrical Inspections expert, Nicky Versfeld invited the regional chairman of the South African Pest Control Association (SAPCA), Mark Enslin to explore this issue.

“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.

But should the public trust these inspections implicitly? That depends on the fine print in the beetle clause of your deed of sale and the competence of the chosen inspector.

Focusing on the second issue first, it should be noted that the South African Pest Control Association (SAPCA) is the only body that trains and qualifies individuals as beetle inspectors. Why would one need such a qualification, you may well ask. The answer lies in the fact that, although an entomologist, for example, is obviously much more specialised in his/her field, that speciality may not necessarily focus on the inspection of a property against wood destroying beetles and organisms. Their academic knowledge may not be sufficient to competently report on infestation in a structure, and could result in a huge oversight. A further concern is the use by many agents of unqualified, inexperienced individuals such as electricians with no training for the sake of convenience and a better deal. That, of course, could have catastrophic results!

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 I digress…

Let’s just say then that the ill informed may feel they have adequate cover under a beetle clause that refers to the aforementioned only. But what if the property’s roof and eaves or floors and joinery were riddled with Anobium Punctatum (common furniture 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.

What if you were in KwaZulu-Natal or parts of the Eastern Cape and the interior, with its Crypotermes Brevis (West Indian dry wood termite) and the subterranean termites species such as Macrotermes Natalensis (the Natal fungal grower), Ondontotermes Badius (insidious fungus grower), Ondontotermes Latericius (the funnel building fungus grower) or Macrotermes swaziae (the Swaziland termite).

It just shows how purchasing a dream home could turn into a nightmare. But there is light at the end of this dark tunnel.  SAPCA, with its stewardship over the inspection industry, has a recommended beetle clause for inclusion in all deeds of sale. This clause will soon be available on the SAPCA official website as well as a list of qualified inspectors. Visit to see.

Recommended Beetle clause in the Deeds of Sale & Offer to Purchase

Both parties agree that, prior to registration of transfer, the seller shall, at own expense, have all the accessible timbers of the property inspected by a SAPCA registered inspector for infestation by wood destroying beetles, termites and (in the Western Cape) fungi, and a report with recommendations shall be given to the purchaser. Where infestation is found, the recommendations made shall be carried out in full, in terms of Act 36 of 1947 and/or SABS Codes 0124 and 0204. Upon receipt of a Certificate of Clearance issued by the said Inspector that there is no infestation apparent on first inspection, or that any infestation reported has been dealt with as aforesaid, the purchaser shall have no further claim against the seller.

Just remember that, as a purchaser, you have the right to insist on the inclusion of the above recommended beetle clause in your offer to purchase, albeit as an addendum to the deed of sale. It will also negate the following misleading fine print: ‘only if the bank (money lender) calls for the beetle inspection’ will such be done at the seller’s expense.

Should you, the buyer, want to ensure you’ve covered all bases, insist on an official SAPCA certificate (pre-printed and numbered) along with the report. These certificates are ONLY available to qualified inspectors and include a fidelity fund contribution that guarantees the inspection for 90 days after date of said inspection.

Armed with this knowledge: Happy house hunting!”

Expert advice provided by Nicky Versveld of Pestech.  If you have any questions about this issue, visit

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