What to look out for in Queensland house property contracts

As a purchaser of residential property in Queensland it is important to be aware of your rights before signing a contract of sale.  An agent will often present the contract to you with urgent instructions to sign and return, however it is essential for the contract to be reviewed by a solicitor who can provide you with independent legal advice before you sign.  Be aware that you do have a five day cooling-off period after signing a residential property contract, however this is not applicable where the contract was entered into as the outcome of an auction. So that you have an understanding of what the solicitor will be looking at, here are six (6) important things to look for in a property contract in Queensland.

  1. Conditions

When purchasing a property you will need to seek a building and pest inspection report and unconditional finance approval.  If the inspection reveals anything concerning about the state of the property you will then be in a position to end the contract, or to request variations to the price to allow for any nasty surprises the inspection brought to light.  Further, if you are unable to obtain finance then you would not be in a financial position to complete the purchase of the property and could then be sued for breach of contract.  It is essential that you double check that these conditions are included in the contract.  The duty is yours to ensure their inclusion.  If you are also selling your current property then you may want to include a condition that the contract will only be unconditional once the sale of your property is completed.

  1. Requirements

It is a legal requirement that the contract of sale must have a warning statement directly above where your signature is required on the contract.  The warning statement must read, “The contract may be subject to a 5 business day statutory cooling-off period. A termination penalty of 0.25% of the purchase price applies if the buyer terminates the contract during the statutory cooling-off period. It is recommended the buyer obtain an independent property valuation and independent legal advice about the contract and his or her cooling-off rights, before signing.”

2 copies of the following documents must be provided to you with the contract:

– the Contract, a PAMD 30c form; warning statement, and a BCCM version 14; body corporate management statement if applicable;

– the Disclosure (off-the-plan purchases);

– the PAMD 27c – the selling agent’s disclosure; and

– the Buyer’s Acknowledgement – confirms the documents that were provided to you.

  1. Fixtures

The lovely custom-made curtains on the big bay windows, the chandelier above the staircase and the apricot tree in the backyard.   These are all reasons you fell in love with the property and decided to purchase, but come moving in day they are no longer there.  This can be avoided if you carefully read through what fixtures will come with the property.

Fixtures are anything on the property that is glued, nailed, bolted, plumbed or screwed in to the property structures. Chattels are freestanding, moveable items at the property. It is essential to clarify with the agent prior to signing the contract exactly what inclusions or exclusions are a part of the contract of sale.  It is even more important to then ensure that these are all included in the written contract.

Some common fixtures to look for that are generally included with the property:

– Hot water system

– Stove

– Fixed carpet

– Clothes line

– Television antennae

– In-ground plants and trees

– Ceiling fan

– Mail box

Built in air-conditioning or heating system

Chattels are not usually included in a contract of sale and need to be itemised separately.  Some examples of chattels sometimes included are:

– Pool and spa equipment

– Potted plants

– Washing machine

Grey areas between chattels and fixtures should be clarified prior to signing the contract and frequently includes items like:

– Gas bottles

– Sprinkler systems

– Dishwasher

– Light fittings

– Curtains

  1. Searches

To avoid nasty surprises a solicitor or conveyancer will conduct several searches such as titles office, rates certificate and zoning.  This can reveal if the property is restricted in any way, whether there are outstanding fees or taxes or if there are encumbrances on the title such as easements or a caveat.  Any encumbrance must be included in the contract of sale and a simple Title search will disclose if the information on the contract is correct.

  1. Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common?

If you are purchasing the property with another you should decide how you wish to own the property.  It is important to consult with your accountant or solicitor to determine the best form of ownership for your personal circumstances. Joint tenants own the property together and it is not divided into shares.  If a joint tenant dies their ownership passes to the surviving joint tenants, once the only surviving joint tenant remains they are the sole owner of the property.  You will be unable to leave the property in your will as a joint tenant and will need to seek legal advice to end the joint tenancy.  Tenants in common own a specific share of the property either an equal share with the other owners of the property or a percentage.  A tenant in common may transfer their share to another person.

  1. Basic Errors

Some very obvious errors can be made on a contract for sale which can complicate the process of buying a house.  Ensure that all names are spelt correctly, the address of the property is correct and that all other details are as agreed between the parties.

Purchasing a property is a significant financial commitment and a solicitor or conveyance should always be consulted before signing a contract of sale and they will take care of the process for you,  however it is still important to be aware yourself of your rights as a buyer and some of the important considerations.  An excellent resource is the Queensland Government’s website as well as the Real Estate Institute Queensland website.

The above is just information and no substitute for legal advice.  Let us know if you need to someone to help you with your property purchase.  We can help you find a good lawyer if you need one (and if you don’t have one already). As mentioned on our about us page, we have a good network of different lawyers will help you find a lawyer that can assist you.  As we work with a number of lawyers, we are able to negotiate better rates for you.

More helpful articles and resources

1. 6 things to look out for in legal contracts when purchasing a property in NSW

2. General information about property law

Adam Ahmed is an Australian international tax lawyer. Adam has over a decade of experience working at 3 of the big 4 accounting firms and one of the top tax law firms in Australia. He is currently the managing director of Adam Ahmed & Co.  This article is reproduced from Adam Ahmed & Co.

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