In a reprieve for developers – and land surveyors – from the ubiquitous madness of Queensland residential land contract compliance hurdles, the Court of Appeal has recently ruled in favour of a common sense approach to the content of LSA disclosure plans.

It was nothing less than contour intervals, that this time brought the Land Sales Act before the highest court in the state, as the buyer of two

 industrial sites on 8000m2 of un-subdivided land near Brisbane, sought to extricate itself from a $2.9 million deal.

As the January 2009 settlement date approached, HM Australia’s Lei Lei Lu refused to complete the Corymbia Place, Parkinson buys he signed up for in March 2008.

The seller, it was alleged, had failed to properly comply with the LSA pre-contract disclosure requirements because the plan attached to the disclosure notice was non-compliant given the clarity – or supposed lack of it – of the contour lines that were “showing”.

The court rejected the argument that two separate contour plans – one showing “natural surface contours” and the other “final surface contours” – were required. It is sufficient and indeed, more convenient, if the two sets of lines are shown on the one plan.

It was also not necessary for the mandatory information to be “immediately obvious to a lay person”. Rather, all that was needed was there to be sufficient information “from which the levels and intervals of the …. surface contours [could] be deduced … by someone familiar with contour plans”, eg a surveyor.

The appellant’s third argument – that the contour interval for the natural surface contours should have been 0.5 m rather than the depicted 1.0 m – also failed.

Including contours at the lesser interval would not have been “appropriate” given a stated degree of error of 0.3m on the public topographic maps from which the natural contour level data was drawn.

“To use 0.5 m when that was the degree of accuracy would create a misleading impression of the accuracy of the data”. 

In contrast, the court approved the “showing” of the “final” contours – which were drawn at 0.5 m – as being the appropriate level of plan disclosure for providing purchasers with sufficient information on the finished product they would be signing up for.

The appeal was dismissed and the specific performance order compelling HM to settle made in March 2011 after a four day trial, was affirmed.

HM Australia Holdings Pty Ltd v Treton Pty Ltd [2011] QCA 382 Muir, Fraser and Chesterman JJA 13/01/12


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