A Mooloolaba developer who exploited PAMDA rules to crash a $2.3 million home buy as settlement date came due, has now been ordered to pay compensation to the harbour front sellers, as recompense for his two year pre-completion occupation of their luxury home.
Scott Juniper, they argued, had flaunted the generous settlement terms – by (unsuccessfully) re-selling the property, renting it out and starting renovations – all before his opportunistic contract termination.
Priced in to the deal, had it gone ahead, was around $9,000 for each month of the extended settlement term.
The sale was contracted in May 2004 but in May 2006, he demanded from shattered sellers, John & Ngaire Roberts, the return of his $107k deposit plus legals, interest and $135k of expenses.
The Supreme Court had no hesitation in ruling in December 2007, that the Roberts pay up.
What brought the sellers undone was that their agent had failed – when faxing the proposed contract to the buyer – to strictly observe the since-repealed “fax rule” by ensuring the contract, cover sheet and warning statement were transmitted as a single document. The Roberts and their agent were yet further victims of Queensland’s overly prescriptive residential contract compliance regime.
But what of Juniper’s two-year rent-free occupation of the luxury property and the cost of reinstatement of his just-started renovations?
These were the issues that occupied the Maroochydore district court in June.
The Roberts contended for an entitlement, notwithstanding the PAMDA breach, to recover damages for contract breach and restitution for “unjust enrichment” from their erstwhile buyer.
The court agreed. It assessed restitution by reference to market rent of $670 per week ($67,884).
The sellers also recovered for completed reinstatement work and a further sum, for the proven cost of further re-establishment work that had not in fact been done by the time they re-sold in September 2006 – for a settlement in 12 months later – at the lower price of $2.1 million.
Inclusive of interest, the sellers can now claw back from Juniper – provided it is paid – a total of $145,000.
Which approximates to their starting positions – except of course for the truckloads of legal fees expended along the way .