We believe we need SimpleLaw and plain legal language is a large part of that.
What are the benefits of legal documents being in plain language or plain legal language?
- Communicate effectively – people can actually read and understand plain language documents. The purpose of most agreements is to regulate behaviour. For example, a lease tries to regulate the way a tenant uses a property. That purpose or aim cannot be achieved if the tenant does not want to read or cannot understand the lease. Having a tenant comply with a lease is so much better than taking action against a tenant for not complying with a lease. Everyone benefits.
- Save time and money – your customers won’t call you so much for explanations and they will make fewer errors filling out forms. This reduces the burden on your call centre.
- Avoid disputes because it is clear what the parties have agreed and there is no room for disagreement. No one wins in litigation.
- Comply with the law – many pieces of legislation (like the Consumer Protection Act) requires legal documents to be in plain language.
- Improve your brand – Imagine having a company website with the same design you have ten years ago. It reflects very poorly on the brand. Legal documents are no different.
- Get more business – consumers prefer to deal with companies that are open and transparent. Gain the trust and loyalty of your customers. Documents should always be written with the target audience in mind.
- Have happy customers – you will receive fewer customer complaints because they will understand what they have agreed to.
What is Plain Legal Language?
You might ask “What is plain language?“. Here is a standard clause found in many leases:
“It is hereby recorded that at the time of the conclusion of this Agreement, the Premises were in a good state of repair and condition, and that all keys, locks, glass windows, electrical installations, sanitary-ware, sewerage pipes, stoves, water taps, geysers and other appurtenances including all the movable items specified in the Inventory annexed hereto (“the goods”), were likewise in good order and condition. Should the Lessee at the time of taking occupation of the Premises discover any defect/s in the Premises and/or any of the goods, he shall within 3 (three) days of such occupation give written notice of such defect/s to the Estate Agent or (if so directed in writing by the Estate Agent at the time of conclusion of this Agreement) the Lessor. Failure on the part of the Lessee to give such notice shall be deemed to be an acknowledgement on his part that the whole of the Premises including all the goods, were in a good and proper state of repair and condition at the time he took occupation.
It is specifically recorded that any notice given by the Lessee in terms of clause 12.1 shall not confer any obligation on the Lessor to repair the Premises or the goods concerned, the intention being that such notice will serve only to record the state of repair in which the Lessee took occupation of the Premises and the goods. It is furthermore specifically recorded that, save as is otherwise provided in this Agreement, the Lessor shall not be obliged to effect repairs to or maintain the Premises or the goods, and the Lessee shall not be entitled to withhold the Rental or to claim any refund in respect of Rental paid by reason of any defect/s whatsoever in the Premises or the goods.”
The equivalent clause written in plain legal language:
“Tenant will, within seven calendar days of the Commencement Date, notify Landlord in Writing of any defects. Tenant’s failure to do so will constitute an acknowledgement by Tenant that the Premises are in good and proper state of repair and condition. A notice of defects will not oblige Landlord to rectify the defect, but records the state and condition of the Premises on the Commencement Date.”
In case you are wondering why we changed three days to seven, it’s because the law requires it to be seven and it is a criminal offence to make it three for residential leases.