Written by: David Rule
Thousands of people buy and sell property in Queensland every month, and a there is a big change coming to property law in Queensland which will have a significant impact on the way property sales (residential or commercial) are conducted.
The Property Law Bill 2023 was introduced into the Queensland parliament earlier this year, and is expected to be passed in the coming months. The Bill will replace the current Property Law Act 1974, which has not been significantly amended since its introduction almost 50 years ago.
The Bill makes a number of significant updates including removing outdated and unnecessary provisions related to old English systems of property ownership, incorporation of terms related to electronic conveyancing, changes to the rules around commercial leasing, and importantly, a new seller disclosure requirement
Disclosure statements are nothing new to some sellers of property in Queensland. They have long been required when selling a lot in a community titles scheme, e.g., a unit, apartment, townhouse, or commercial shed. They disclosure a number of fundamental features of the unit, including body corporate fees, if there have been any issues with the body corporate, if there are any common assets which the prospective buyer might be responsible for, and so on.
Now, the new legislation proposes to expand this scheme to sellers of all property – residential land, houses, and commercial property. Sellers will now have to provide a disclosure statement to any prospective buyer, before the buyer signs the Contract of Sale. The disclosure statement must contain a number of declarations about the property. The specific list has not been finalised and may change in the final legislation, but is expected to include:
- A current title search (in many instances, buyers have needed to order these themselves) showing if there are any mortgages, easements, or other encumbrances;
- Planning approval and zoning status, giving the buyer an initial understand of the nature of the land and what they might be able to use it for – e.g., if they are able to build a two-storey house on it, or if it is zoned for single-storey only;
- If there has been any unapproved building work which the local council may require them to rectify;
- If there has been any notification by the government to build transport infrastructure which may affect the property;
- Current status of the property’s rates and water accounts, and;
- For applicable commercial properties, certain energy efficiency requirements.
Important to note is that the disclosure regime does not appear to include any requirement to disclose flooding information or structural soundness, and a prudent buyer should still make enquiries in these regards.
Failure to comply with the requirement to provide a disclosure statement may give a buyer the right to terminate the contract at any time up until settlement, even if the disclosure statement would have revealed nothing that needed to be disclosed. If a disclosure statement is provided but is incomplete, and a buyer makes a discovery later, this could also lead to termination.
I’m buying/selling, What now?
This new regime represents a significant shift in the traditional “buyer beware” maxim underpinning selling property in Queensland. If you are selling or buying property in Queensland in the near future, speak to us for expert advice as to what you are required to disclosure (or what is required to be disclosed to you), to ensure you don’t get caught out.
The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of a professional. This information does not consider your personal circumstances and may not reflect the most current legal developments. Should you need advice, please contact our firm for targeted information relating to personal your situation.