’n Perdepaspoort, logboek, mantel of die invecta et illata in huureiendom is geen objekte van ’n retensiereg van die besitter nie

Author: JC Sonnekus

ISSN: 1996-2207
Affiliations: Professor in Privaatreg, Universiteit van Johannesburg
Source: Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg, Issue 2, 2024, p. 222-246


A retentor derives no real security right from either an obligatory agreement or a real agreement with the owner of the thing he is retaining under his lien. Therefore he is not on the same footing as the holder of a right of hypothec, mortgage or pledge who is in possession of the thing of another as holder of a limited right of real security. With the exception of the pledgee with an additional entitlement agreed to by the pledgor to use the object of the pledge (pactum antichreseos), it is common to all the said limited real security figures that the retainer derives no entitlement to take advantage of the property of another in his possession. However, notwithstanding the fact that he may derive no benefit from his withholding of the object, he is responsible for preserving the object against damage or risk at his own expense as the de facto custodian of the object, although no agreement of bailment came about.
It would be wrong to assume randomly that all examples of rightful retention of another’s goods are examples of liens. It may also be the entitlement of a limited real security right such as the tacit hypothec of a landlord or patron of a restaurant. The ius retentionis of the holder of a lien is merely the limited entitlement of the creditor without any preceding agreement between the owner of the object being retained and the creditor entitling the latter to retain it as long as the owner as debtor is in default of paying his dues to the holder of the lien for costs incurred by the latter regarding the object of the lien.
No lien comes into play unless the required nexus exists regarding the parties involved and the object retained. In contrast, in the cases of a tacit hypothec of a landlord or innkeeper, there is no question of any coherence or nexus between the claim of the landlord to the invecta et illata or hotel-keeper to the coat of the guest as creditor and the object being retained.
Subject to special statutory regulation, no limited real security right can be established on an integral part of a thing. Only a thing that meets all the requirements as an object of a real right can be the object of a real right and this also applies to a limited real right. Possession of a thing requires exclusive control over it and not simply possession of an integral part or symbol of the object of the debtor’s real right of ownership if the object is classified as a movable. Possession is, however, no requirement for a derivative mode of acquisition of a real right on immovable property. It is submitted that mere possession of the passport of a horse or the logbook of an aeroplane does not suffice as symbolic possession of the horse or the aeroplane.
Withholding part of the due performance under a reciprocal agreement until the counterparty has fully performed or because by agreement the debtor wishes eg to occupy the new house for three months to see what defects in the construction comes to light before delivering the agreed retention money to the builder, is no example of a lien. The retaining of the agreed portion of the final performance by the mandator is neither an entitlement of a limited real right nor a lien. This is part of the agreed terms of the building contract and any attempt by the creditor to compel performance before the condition had been met can be averted with the exceptio non adimpleti contractus.