In the Queensland property market, solicitors are often an afterthought when it comes to commencing the sale or purchase of a residential property. Unfortunately, by the time “legal” gets subbed into the game, the agent has already scored straight down the middle with the contract signed sealed and ready to be delivered. The result can often be problematic, particularly if you are dealing with a more complex transaction.
An issue that comes up more often, is having the correct name on the contract. Often, this is due to a fundamental misunderstanding of the process and the importance of having this decision made prior to signing. The liability for stamp duty attaches to the entity from the time the contract is signed (not when the contract goes unconditional, or when it settles). Particularly for buyers, once the contract is in place, varying the purchasing entity can have adverse implications for stamp duty (read here: doubly duty). Should you find yourself in a situation, during the contract, where you advise that the name on the contract needs to be changed as “it was always meant to be purchased in the trust, but the seller said we needed to sign urgently and the trust wasn’t set up yet”, careful consideration is required.
The most important thing to do in this situation is to act promptly. Depending on how much time has passed since the matters genesis, and the severity of the change required, you may be able to withdraw from the contract under the cooling off period. This carries the risk of the seller requiring a termination penalty so may not be desirable in all circumstances. The most common course of action however, while the contract is unconditional, will be to make a request with the other side to enter into a deed of rescission. This secures the property, while the correct contract is drawn up and executed by the (correct) parties.
The problem with this approach is that it relies strictly on mutual agreement between the parties. In a Sellers’ market, this approach is not always successful. If the seller refuses, and the contract is unconditional, the buyers have no choice but to complete the purchase or risk losing their deposit.
How can this issue be avoided you might ask and I offer three words: Review, Collaboration and Education.
First and foremost contract reviews. This is the most obvious route to success as it allows the solicitor to pick up the omission or error before it becomes a problem.
Collaboration, with agents, clients, the accountant and (the other side to the extent permitted by law) to ensure everyone is engaged once the issue arises. Often dealing directly with the agent at the outset to clarify entity with them, goes a long way towards securing a successful outcome. The agent is the indispensable connector, they are the go between for the buyer and seller and often have a better relationship with both parties. They also have a vested interest in a successful outcome. Collaboration is also important with client and lawyer. Discussing the issues with the purchaser directly so they understand exactly the stamp duty issues as they arise (and before they become disastrous), can often lead to a more thorough, considered and effective solution.
Finally education. Advising the agent early first and foremost is so important. It is usually an agent who will prepare the contract, so giving clarity to an agent as to stating the correct purchaser is critical and helps a long way in preventing a ‘repeat’. The value of having a solicitor review the contract prior to signing cannot be understated.
Please contact our office today to speak with Katherine Blood on 07 3839 7555 if you wish to discuss your contract or via Katherine.Blood@Perspectivelaw.com