Archive for May, 2014
The vendor’s “section 32 statement” will not have to be attached to a contract for the sale of land following amendments to the Sale of Land Act 1962. See: s.4 of the Sale of Land Amendment Act 2014. The amendments have not yet commenced. The latest day on which the changes can commence is 1 July 2015. See: s.2(3). The effect of the amendments is to replace s.32 in its entirety. Many of the changes do no more than restate the existing law.
The vendor’s statement need not be attached to the contract but must be given to the purchaser before the purchaser signs the contract. See: s.32(1). Where vendor’s statements have been given before the Act commences it will not be necessary to give a new vendor’s statement provided the land is not withdrawn from sale. See: the transitional provisions contained in s.6.
Some of the changes are:
(a) the name of any planning overlay must be provided (s.32C(d)(iv));
(b) there must be disclosure where a notice, order, declaration, report or recommendation of a public authority or government department or approved proposal that is “directly and currently affecting the land” (s.32D(a));
(c) only non-connected services need be disclosed (s.32H);
(d) where an owners corporation affects the land the vendor can provide prescribed information rather than the owners corporation certificate (s32F);
(e) vendors have to make available to prospective purchasers of vacant residential land a “due diligence checklist” which is in a form approved by the Director of Consumer Affairs (see new division 2A).
The “due diligence checklist” must be published on the internet site for Consumer Affairs Victoria.
A purchaser may rescind the contract where false information is provided, or information not provided, or no s.32 statement is provided. See: s.32K.
David Lloyd of counsel gave an excellent presentation about the changes to the Act at a recent seminar hosted by Green’s List and those wishing to know more should contact Green’s List to view David’s presentation.
This blog has previously referred to the important decision of Ottedin Investments Pty Ltd v Portbury Developments Co Pty Ltd  VSC 222 which confirmed that amendments to the Sale of Land Act 1962 made in 2008 had caused “terms contracts” to cease to be regulated by the Act where multiple payments were made before the purchaser was entitled to possession of the land. The effect of the definition of “deposit” was that multiple payments formed part of the deposit. In Ottedin Dixon J considered the definition of “terms contract” that has applied since 31 October 2008. Section 29A provides:
“(1) For the purposes of this Act a contract is a terms contract if it is an executory contract for the sale and purchase of any land under which the purchaser is –
(a) obliged to make 2 or more payments (other than a deposit or final payment) to the vendor after the execution of the contract and before the purchaser is entitled to a conveyance or transfer of the land; or
(b) entitled to possession or occupation of the land before the purchaser becomes entitled to a conveyance or transfer of the land.
(2) In subsection (1)-
deposit means a payment made to the vendor or to a person on behalf of the vendor before the purchaser becomes entitled to possession or to the receipt of rents and profits under the contract;
final payment means a payment on the making of which the purchaser becomes entitled to a conveyance or transfer of the land.”
Before 31 October 2008 any payments made by the purchaser on or before the execution of the contract (ie the deposit) or upon becoming entitled to a conveyance or transfer (ie final payment) were not payments taken into account in determining whether the contract was on terms.
In Ottedin the purchaser, in December 2008 contracted to purchase land for $6.5 million and paid a deposit of $325,000 with settlement due in December 2009 upon which the purchaser became entitled to transfer and vacant possession of the land. The purchaser was unable to settle. By deed the parties deleted the particulars of sale and substituted new particulars under which the price remained the same but the settlement date was changed to December 2010, the deposit became $1,325,000 with $325,00 due on the day of sale and $1,000,000 due in January 2010 (increased deposit). There was also a provision for a contingent interim payment of $3,675,000 with a final payment of $1,500,000 due at settlement. Ottedin defaulted and sought to avoid the contract under s29O(2) of the Act on the ground that the contract was a “terms contract” that did not comply with the Act’s requirements concerning terms contracts. The contention was that apart from the initial deposit of $325,000 and the final payment, the contract (as varied) was a terms contract because it obliged the purchaser to pay two or payments after the execution of the contract, being the balance of the deposit ($1,000,000) due in January 2010 and the interim payment of $3,675,000. Dixon J rejected the purchaser’s contention and gave summary judgment to the defendant vendor. His Honour held that both the initial $325,000 and the increased deposit were each obligations to pay the “deposit” within the meaning of s29A. His Honour held that the contingent interim payment of $3,675,00 (which was not paid) was either a deposit or became part of the final payment but its characterisation did not matter because even if it was an interim payment before settlement, there was still only one payment. In Portbury Development Co Pty Ltd v Ottedin Investments Pty Ltd  VSC 57 Garde J reconsidered the issues determined by Dixon J and held that he considered “the decision of Dixon J to be correct on the issues decided by His Honour that were sought to be reargued before me”.
 The decision is now reported at (2011) 35 VR 1.
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The High Court has rejected the notion that the onus of proof in relation to detrimental reliance can shift to the party said to be estopped. In Sidhu v Van Dyke  HCA 19 0the Court had to consider the sufficiency of proof of detrimental reliance required to given rise to an equitable estoppel (proprietary estoppel).
The appellant and his wife owned land as joint tenants.
The trial judge found that the appellant had promised to give the respondent part of the land owned by him and his wife once that land was subdivided.
The appellant and the respondent formed a relationship which resulted in the respondent’s husband leaving her.
The respondent did not seek a property settlement from her husband because of the promises made by the appellant.
The trial judge accepted that respondent had worked on the land and gave up opportunities for employment and that these activities might be sufficient to amount to detrimental reliance for the purpose of an equitable estoppel; however, Her Honour concluded that the respondent may well have done all or most of those things in any event.
This conclusion was based on answers given by the respondent in the course of cross-examination. The trial judge also held that it was not reasonable for the respondent to rely on a promise of a transfer of land when performance depended on the land being subdivided and the consent of the appellant’s wife.
The Court of Appeal upheld the respondent’s contention that the trial judge erred in holding that it was unreasonable to rely on the promises.
The Court of Appeal also held that the onus of proof in relation to detrimental reliance shifted to the party said to be estopped (ie the male appellant) where inducement by the promise could be inferred from the conduct of the claimant (ie the respondent).
The Court of Appeal held that an award of equitable compensation measured by reference to the value of the respondent’s disappointed expectation was the appropriate form of relief, being the value of the land at the date of judgment.
The High Court rejected the notion that the onus of proof in relation to detrimental reliance shifted: reliance was a fact that had to be found and not imputed on the basis of evidence that fell short of proof of the fact; the respondent at all times bore the legal burden of proving that she had been induced to rely upon the appellant’s promises.
The Court said that the real question was the appropriate inference to be drawn from the whole of the evidence. The Court also held that the evidence established reliance.
As to the relief, the High Court said that “this category of equitable estoppel serves to vindicate the expectations of the represented against a party who seek unconscionably to resile from an expectation he or she has created”. See: French CJ, Keifel, Bell and Keane JJ at .
Had the respondent been induced to make a relatively small, readily quantifiable monetary outlay on the faith of the appellant’s assurances, then it might not be unconscionable for the appellant to resile from his promises to the respondent on condition that he reimburse her for the outlay.
However, the Court decided that this case was one to which the observations of Nettle JA in Donis v Donis (2007 19 VR 577, at 588-589 were apposite:
“[H]ere, the detriment suffered is of a kind and extent that involves life-changing decisions with irreversible consequences of a profoundly personal nature…beyond the measure of money and such that the equity raised by the promisor’s conduct can only be accounted for by the substantial fulfillment of the assumption upon which the respondent’s actions were based.”
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