Posts Tagged Purchaser

When does a deposit become a penalty?

Deposits hold a special place in contracts for the sale of land and do not fall within the general rules about penalties. Where a purchaser defaults the deposit (customarily 10 per cent) can be forfeited even though the amount of the deposit bears no reference to the anticipated loss to the vendor flowing from the breach of contract[1]. The vendor can forfeit the deposit as a minimum sum even if it makes a profit on the resale. On the purchaser’s breach, a vendor is also not limited to recovering the amount of the deposit; but may recover any deficiency on resale (after taking into account the forfeited deposit).

The special treatment afforded to deposits “derives from the ancient custom of providing an earnest for the performance of a contract in the form of giving either some physical token of earnest (such as a ring) or earnest money…”[2].

Where the principles governing deposits and the law governing penalties interact is where the contract provides, for example, for a deposit of less than 10 per cent to be paid and, in the event of a default, for the whole of the 10 per cent deposit to be paid. In such cases the requirement to pay the additional amount on default has been held to be a penalty[3].

In Simcevski v Dixon (No 2) [2017] VSC 531 Riordan J considered a contract for the sale of land that provided for the payment of a deposit equivalent to 5 per cent of the purchase price. Upon default by the purchaser, the vendor sought payment of a further 5 per cent of the purchase price relying on clause 28.4 of the contract which provided that:

‘If the contract ends by a default notice given by the vendor:

(a) the deposit up to 10% of the price is forfeited as the vendor’s absolute property, whether the deposit has been paid or not; and”

While His Honour accepted that the anomalous position of deposits in the law of penalties protected them in most circumstances, he held that the obligation in cl 28.4 to pay further sum of 5% of the price was void as a penalty because:

  • the obligation to pay a further sum of 5% of the purchase price did not purport to be by way of a deposit because the words in cl 28.4, being ‘the deposit up to’, had been deleted; and
  • the further sum of 5% was only payable ‘[i]f the contract ends by a default notice given by the vendor’.

His Honour said:

“In my opinion, the circumstances of this case lead to the position, described by the Court of Appeal, in Melbourne Linh Son Buddhist Society Inc v Gippsreal Ltd[4], as:

[t]he irresistible inference that arises from [the] evidence and the inherent circumstances of the … transaction is that the [payment is to be made] in order to punish the [breaching party] for the inconvenience its conduct caused to the [innocent party] … rather than to protect any legitimate commercial interest of the [innocent party] arising from a breach … by the [breaching party].

His Honour also held that cl 28.4 was not a penalty simply because it was not a liquidated damages clause (ie a clause that refers to a sum fixed by the contract as a genuine pre-estimate of damage in the event of breach), but rather because it imposed an obligation to pay without any limit on the vendor’s right to claim damages to the extent that they exceed that payment.

Drafters of contracts must make it clear what is and what is not a deposit and provide for that sum to be paid without any reference to a breach. The case contains an extensive discussion of all the relevant caselaw.

[1] See: Workers Trust and Merchant Bank Ltd v Dojap Investments Ltd [1993] AC 573; Kazacos v Shuangling International Development Pty Ltd (2016) 18 BPR 36,353.

[2] Workers Trust, 578-9.

[3] See, among others: Luu v Sovereign Developments Pty Ltd (2006) 12 BPR 23,629; Iannello v Sharpe (2007) 69 NSWLR 452.

[4] [2017] VSCA 161.

Advertisements

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Date of termination confirmed as the date for assessing damages for breach of contract for sale of land

The general rule is that damages for a breach of a contract for the sale of land are assessed at the date of the breach. The task is usually to compare the contract price with the value of the land a the time of the breach. If the value is greater than the contract price, the vendor has suffered no loss. But if the value is less than the contract price, it may be inferred that the discrepancy is an element of the vendor’s loss (Vitek v Estate Homes Pty Ltd [2010] NSWSC 237 at [179]).

 

In Ng v Filmlock Pty Ltd [2014] NSWCA 389 the NSW Court of Appeal heard an appeal by a purchaser of land from a judgment where the trial judge had assessed the vendor’s loss as being the difference between the contract price and the price obtained on a resale. The contract restricted the use of the resale price as an element in the quantification of loss to a resale within 12 months of termination but otherwise the vendor was entitled to damages for breach of contract. The resale took place more than 12 months after termination and therefore the general law applied. The land had declined significantly in value by the time of the resale.

The vendor argued that there was no available market as at the date of the breach of contract and therefore the resale price was relevant to the calculation of loss. The argument was based on a proposition said to be derived from the decision of the English Court of Appeal in Hooper v Oates [2014] Ch 287: the correct date for assessment of damages for breach of contract is the date of breach only where there is an immediately available market for the subject matter of the sale.

Emmett JA, after noting that the English Court of Appeal did not explain what was meant by an “immediately available market”, said at [26]:

“While a sale of land might take longer than the sale of other types of assets, it does not follow that there should be a departure from the general rule, which focuses on the value of the land as at the date of termination of the contract. There is good reason for that approach where the damages sought by the innocent seller are loss of bargain damages. The critical date is when the bargain was lost.”

While the appeal was successful the court accepted that in an appropriate case the interests of justice may require that “the date of breach” rule should not apply and damages may be assessed by reference to a later date, such as the contract price on resale. See: Johnson v Perez (1988) 166 CLR 351 at 367.

Gleeson JA said at [58]:

“….whether a market value may be assessed in the case of land as at “the date of breach” is ultimately a question of fact. Of necessity, the sale of land will generally require a period to elapse for proper marketing. Unsuccessful attempts by a vendor to resell the property are not determinative as to whether there is no market for the land. Much will depend on the usual method of sale for the land in question having regard to its location, particular characteristics, the range of likely interested purchasers, and the time usually required for proper marketing of land of that type. Expert valuation evidence is likely to have a significant role.”

And at [59]:

“It needs to be emphasised that that departure from the general rule is not a matter of discretion: Clark v Macourt [2013] HCA 56 at [109] (Keane J). A vendor claiming damages assessed at a date later than “the date of breach” must demonstrate that there are particular reasons on the facts which would make it unjust to apply the prima face or “usual” measure of damages.”

 

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Second Notice to Complete Revives Terminated Agreement – Contract Sale of Land

A vendor who has terminated a contract for the sale of land should be wary of serving a second notice to complete because the second notice revives the agreement that has been terminated.

In Rona v Shimden [2005] NSWSC 818 a vendor under a contract of sale claiming to have terminated the contract, gave notice to complete which was expressed to be without prejudice to its contention that the contract was terminated. White J at [86] analysed the position as follows:

The giving of a notice to complete may give rise to an estoppel which precludes the party giving the notice from asserting that the contract has been terminated. Here, the purchaser did not do anything consequent upon the service of the notice which could create such an estoppel. Estoppel aside, the service of a notice to complete without prejudice to a prior notice of termination takes effect as an offer to revive the agreement, capable of being accepted by performance in accordance with the terms of the notice to complete: Lohar Corporation Pty Ltd v Dibu Pty Ltd (1976) 1 BPR 9177 at 9184, 9187.

In Naval and Military Club v Southraw [2008] VSC 593 Byrne J accepted this analysis. See: also Portbury Development Co Pty Ltd v Ottedin Investments Pty Ltd & Ors [2014] VSC 57.

 

sub of land

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

$1,000,000 in damages for loss of sperm even though purchaser not out of pocket

There is a translation key (widget) on the mirrored blog for ease of reading for non-English speaking members of the public or professionals. The mirrored blog can be found at http://roberthaybarrister.blogspot.com.au/

 

A wise senior building barrister once said to me that in analysing a legal problem you should “always start with the money” – that is analyse what methodology underlies  or underpins the claim for damages.

 

Too often little thought is given to how damages should be calculated before a proceeding is commenced.

In December 2013 the High Court in Clark v Macourt [2013] HCA 56  gave a decision concerning damages in a breach of contract case that has caused much discussion.

A person who provided assisted reproductive technology services to patients purchased the assets and practice of a company providing similar services.

The assets included a stock of frozen donated sperm.

A guarantor guaranteed the vendor’s obligations under the contract.

The vendor warranted that the identification of donors of the sperm complied with specified guidelines; however, of the stock of sperm delivered, 1,996 straws which the purchaser would have expected to be able to use were not as warranted and were unusable.

The vendor could not buy suitable replacement sperm in Australia but could in the USA.

The primary judge found that buying 1,996 straws of replacement sperm from the American supplier would have cost about $1 million at the time the contract was breached. The purchase price for the assets (including the stock of frozen donated sperm) was less than $400,000. The purchaser could not have made any profit from the frozen donated sperm because ethically she could not charge, and in fact had not charged, any patient a fee for using donated sperm greater than the amount the purchaser had outlaid to acquire it.

The question was,  how should the purchaser’s  damages for breach of warranty be fixed?     The primary judge gave judgment against the vendor and the guarantor for the costs  incurred in purchasing replacement sperm from the USA.

This was overturned by the NSW Court of Appeal which held that the purchaser had avoided any loss she would have suffered by purchasing replacement sperm and had charged each patient a fee which covered the costs of buying the sperm.

The High Court of Australia held 4:1  – that the appeal should be allowed and reinstated the decision of the primary judge with the consequence that the vendor’s loss and therefore the damages were $1 million.

The methodology underlying the decision was entirely uncontroversial:   the principle according to which damages for breach of contract are awarded is that the damages should put the promisee in the same situation, so far as money can do it as it would have been in if the broken promise had been performed.

Damages are assessed at the date of the breach. The case emphasises the importance of carefully considering  how the claim is pleaded:   in this case at the date of the breach the purchaser was in the position where she had to buy a $1 million worth of sperm to replace what she had lost.

 

My clerk can be contacted via this link for bookings  http://www.greenslist.com.au/

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

What is the effect of a nominee clause?

There is a translation key (widget) on the mirrored blog for ease of reading for non-English speaking members of the public or professionals. The mirrored blog can be found at  http://roberthaybarrister.blogspot.com.au/

 

What is the effect of a purchaser of land nominating a nominee under a nomination clause contained in the contract: what rights and obligations does the nominee have?

The answer is none: the nominee has no contractual rights and no obligations.

In 428 Little Bourke Street Pty Ltd v Lonsdale Street Cafe Pty Ltd [2009] VSC 133 the vendor misrepresented the lettable area of the property. The purchaser nominated the plaintiff as purchaser. The director of the purchaser was also the director of the nominee. It was alleged that the nominee purchaser relied on the representations. The nominee clause  provided as follows:

“If the contract says that the property is sold to a named purchaser ‘and/or nominee’ (or similar words) the named purchaser may, at least 14 days before settlement date, nominate a substitute or additional purchaser, but the named purchaser remains personally liable for the due performance of all the purchaser’s obligations under this contract.”

The contract authorised a substitute or additional purchaser.

The nominee purchaser brought an action for damages based on a breach of s 52 of the Trade Practices Act, s 9 of the Fair Trading Act and for negligent misstatement.

Judd J held that that the nomination did not have the effect of a novation and the plaintiff did not become a party to the contract of sale.

His Honour also found that by the time the plaintiff paid the purchase price and took the conveyance it was aware of the true lettable area of the property.

Thus, the cause of the plaintiff’s loss was either an informed choice to pay a price for the property and take the conveyance or, if the payment was involuntary, it was because the plaintiff was caused by its directors, in full knowledge of the true facts to make the payment in which case but for the nomination it would not have suffered any loss.  The loss was caused by the nomination – not the representations.  Judd J dismissed the proceeding.

 

My clerk can be contacted via this link for bookings  http://www.greenslist.com.au/

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Owners Corporations Law

Legal commentary on strata issues in Victoria

The Warne Account

The blog of Dan Warne, Australian tech writer.

Best Practices for Legal Education

A Vision and a Road Map

Tisher Liner FC Law Blog

Legal Updates on Business Law, Property and Litigation

THE NSW BAR -- A COMMENTARY

AN ASSOCIATION OF UNCOMMON PEOPLE

With Compliments

Geoffrey Gibson

The law of land and sea

Australian law of property and environment

Amicae Curiae

Women. Law. Legal Education. Legal Practice. Career. Work/Life balance

Carrie Rome-Sievers, Barrister

Developments in insolvency and commercial law

Equity, Trusts and More

Travis Mitchell, Barrister at the Victorian Bar

Sam Ure

A Melbourne barrister practising in commercial disputes, tax and administrative law

The Property Law Blog

Robert Hay QC Property and Commercial Law Barrister

%d bloggers like this: