Real estate contract such as off-the-plan disputes is an ever-present feature of Queensland’s property market. Some off-the-plan disputes arise from genuine grievances as to what the contract intended but many occur because of a change of mind or change in market conditions after contract signing.

Buyers or sellers wishing to enforce transactions must be prepared to face sustained and novel contentions. Those that seek an escape route must be armed with all available arguments of which there are usually many. See this case as an example.

Off-the-plan Disputes

Other off-the-plan disputes can arise from settlement delays, compliance issues, outgoings adjustments, interest calculations and due diligence determination.

Selling and buying off-the-plan always carries the risk that the property will not live up to value expectations come settlement time.

The management of the inevitable small proportion of contract terminations in any project requires experience and knowledge. Understanding contract sensitivity demands technical excellence.

See this example of an unsuccessful off-the-plan termination attempt.

Misleading conduct

Marketing of Real Estate is a “service” to which the Australian Consumer Law applies. Allegations of this type must be strictly proved, preferably from statements in writing. A vague recollection of conversations will usually be insufficient to make out this type of claim. See this example of an off-the-plan termination that was unsuccessful. And one that was successful.

A seller who promises benefits in relation to the property it is selling can be held liable if those benefits do not exist as occurred in this example.

Technical termination

Buyers or sellers who wish to terminate a real estate contract for a house, unit or vacant land – for example by reason of a downturn in the market for the lack of finance available to allow a buyer to complete the purchase – need to enlist an experienced real estate lawyer to investigate termination opportunities. This is an example of a seller’s attempted contract termination on technical grounds.

Contract interpretation

Unless sale contracts are prepared by competent real estate lawyers – and even on many occasions when they are – there can be differences of opinion as to exactly what a particular contract provision is intended to provide. The buyer contends that a contract was has a particular meaning while the seller asserts the opposite.

If this situation arises, the parties need the best advice as to their positions to be able to make an informed decision about how to resolve the dispute, hopefully well before the matter comes before a court. See this example of a litigated contract interpretation dispute.

Unforeseen events

A buyer or a seller may see the need to terminate a house or unit contract because of unforeseen events occurring after the contract is signed and before settlement. See here for information about a buyer’s rights if a property is substantially damaged by storms or flood prior to the settlement date.

Can you terminate an off-the-plan disputes contract?

Legal avenues can always be explored to support valid contract termination.  These include issues relating to misleading and deceptive conduct or “unfair terms” that might arise from nondisclosure or the relationship between a marketer or financial planner and the developer.

A valid termination might also arise from the poor quality of the developer’s contract documentation, changes occurring to the project and the unit layout etc since signing up for the buy and an event that adversely affects the developer’s title. See this example of a successful off-the-plan contract termination.

Failure to communicate

If a seller does not provide an adequate disclosure statement in a specified manner, a buyer has the right to terminate an off-plan contract within certain parameters and certain prescribed time periods.

Call our off-the-plan disputes team to answer your contract queries on 1300 590 613 or simply fill in the request form and we will respond promptly to you.


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