Time is of the essence


Time is of the essence! Not just a trope in science fiction as the countdown to doomsday ticks ever closer (because the timer always has to stop at “00:01”, right?) but also in QLD property law, which is probably more relevant to this column.

For those that have signed a contract lately (congratulations) or less recently (thinking of buying or selling?), you will note at least one, if not three or more very important dates on the contract of sale – that of settlement (the day the property changes hands officially), and generally both a finance and a building and pest clause, as well as any other potential clauses inserted at your request. Expressed as either a specific date or as a number of days from the date of contract, these are your deadlines for each party to meet their requirements under the contract.

Now, as much as we might be tempted to take a “she’ll be right” mentality from time to time, that doesn’t strictly fly under QLD property law. The date is the date is the date, and time truly is “of the essence” (literally). Where a date is noted in the contract, the party MUST either fulfill that requirement or request an extension by no later than 5pm of the relevant day, otherwise they either lose the benefit of that clause at a minimum, or in more serious circumstances, can be in default and subject to some pretty hefty penalties (in addition to potentially having the contract terminated).

Another temptation when it comes to making an offer, is to put in quick terms with the idea that if it doesn’t work out, you can always get an extension once the contract is in place. Again, not a foregone conclusion that you will get the extension, even if asked for. The seller reserves the right to say “no” at any point, and in a rapidly changing market (and boy is this one rapid), there might be someone else waiting in the wings not only happy to put in cleaner terms, but to potentially offer more money too. That said, with things the way they are and the difficulties in getting banks and building inspectors to fit your schedule, an honest and upfront request shouldn’t knock things on the head in most cases.

The best way to keep out of trouble? Plan ahead, be realistic on your timeframes, and above all – talk to your solicitor and your agent!