Contracts- Why bother?
Paul Brennan is the principal of Brennans Solicitors, a law firm located on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, where he practices with his wife, Diane in the areas of business law, litigation, property and wills/estates.
Over the years, by working in various countries, he noticed how similar the law can be. He set out to explain the law in a simple and often humorous way.
In Queensland, Australia, the estate agents have produced a standard conveyancing contract. It would be churlish of me to point out that this is the lunatics taking over the asylum however, one slight criticism of the Queensland Real Estate Institute’s Standard Contract for Commercial Land and Buildings is that it bores the pants off people.
Where is that estate agent pizzazz? Shouldn’t there be exciting references like water rate glimpses; just a few minutes from the breach; or, warranties that must be seen to be believed? In fact, it is so boring it looks like lawyers put it together and have somehow convinced the real estate agents to carry the can.
Most people can’t be bothered to read legal documents. Who can blame them? Well, judges can. For hundreds of years, courts have listened to people saying they did not know what they were signing. Generally, if you sign a contract then you are stuck with it. Consumers get some leeway, but not business owners.
In the old days it was like ‘Where’s Wally’ to find the detail in a contract. Now all the excitement has been taken out of it because the important details are mostly thrown in a schedule where anyone can find them.
As a buyer what should you be concerned about?
1. Keep an eye on the deposit you pay. What happens to it? Is it invested? Where?
2. If the building burns down after you sign the contract are you responsible? Usually, yes. So you may need to insure immediately the contract is signed.
3. Anything not nailed down can be removed if not specifically mentioned. Gain access to the premises before completion to check the inventory and state of repair.
4. The contract should be subject to your obtaining finance and satisfactory pest and building inspection reports. So if you can’t get a loan to buy the house or the house turns out to be a wreck you can get your deposit back and walk away.
5. At settlement, ask for all the documents, not just the keys.
All this and more is covered by the Queensland real estate agent’s contract in mind-numbing detail and lawyers just love it. But we would, wouldn’t we?
© Paul Brennan 2010-18. All rights Reserved.
Extract from "The Law is an Ass—make sure it doesn’t bite yours!