Queensland Waters Down ‘Off the Plan’ Protection Laws

Thursday, September 18th, 2014
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Developers in Queensland will be able to sell ‘off the plan’ lots before permits to build houses and apartments on those lots are obtained and will have no longer be subject to having the buyer terminate a contract where deposits of more than 10 per cent are paid under new laws which that state’s government claims will streamline legislative requirements without impacting consumer protection.

Passed through the state’s Parliament on September 9, the Land Sales and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 removes a previous restriction which prevented property developers from selling proposed land allotments prior to obtaining development approvals to reconfigure the land.

The bill also removes the right of buyers to terminate a contract for sale of a proposed allotment in cases where the deposit under the contract was greater than 10 per cent of the purchase price.

The changes also:

  • Provide automatic exemptions from rules relating to seller disclosure and trust account requirements with regard to land that is to be subdivided into less than five lots
  • Remove requirements for the seller of proposed allotments or lots to disclose names and addresses of the seller and buyer and to provide the buyer with copies of plans to reconfigure or develop the land
  • Increases the maximum deposit allowable before installment contract provisions of the Property Law Act apply from 10 per cent to 20 per cent
  • Clarify the right of buyers and sellers to use agents to act on their behalf
  • Allow buyers and sellers to extend the time frame within which the latter must provide the former with a title transfer from three and a half years after the contract is entered into to five and a half years.
  • Remove offenses for contraventions of seller requirements regarding disclosure or providing buyers with property transfers, but retain contract termination rights for buyers where these requirements are not met.

While the changes appear to water down consumer protection, the government says adequate safeguards are still provided for both in the legislation and in other parts of state law.

Despite the relaxation on rules regarding deposits, for instance, buyers would be protected by existing requirements for amounts paid toward the purchase of lots to be held in trust as well as termination rights where the seller does not settle within prescribed time frames, the government says.

Indeed, State Attorney General Jarrod Bleijie said the reforms would provide prospective purchasers with easier access to information such as proposed earth works and construction of buildings and other structures such as retaining walls along with (for community titles) the size, location and floor level of the apartment as well as common property on the same floor.

“These reforms will make Queensland an even more attractive place to live and work by promoting growth and investment, which in turn creates jobs and opportunities for Queenslanders,” Bleijie said.

“They are a win for families and the industry by increasing buyer protection and reducing burdensome red tape for ‘off the plan’ housing projects at the same time.”

Real Estate Institute of Queensland acting chief executive officer Antonia Mercorella said the reforms would reduce compliance burdens for developers whilst enabling greater contractual freedom for all parties.

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