Conveyancing over Christmas

December 20th, 2016

It’s that time of year again, the holiday season is upon us and the rush in finalising conveyancing contracts prior to the Cairns Christmas closures is ever present.

The trend in Cairns, and indeed elsewhere in Australia, is for conveyancing matters to increase exponentially leading up to the holidays and a push for settlements to go through before Christmas.  What many buyers and sellers do not realise is the impact of the holiday period on the critical dates in their conveyancing contracts.

Here are a few things to look out for and keep in mind for property settlements this time of year:

  1. Everyone wants their settlement to go through before going on holidays.  This puts increased pressure on Banks, often needing to deal with a huge influx of mortgage applications and release requests.  This is further complicated in Cairns, because Banks need extra time to mail or courier documents in readiness for settlement.  The key is to keep in contact with your bank and try to get in as early as possible.
  1. In the standard conveyancing contracts in Queensland, time is of the essence.  Accordingly it is essential that you meet finance dates, building and pest inspection dates and settlement dates.

If a finance date, building and pest inspection date or settlement date falls on a public holiday, in accordance with the standard conveyancing contracts, it will automatically pass to the ‘next business day’.  It is extremely important to keep this in mind when you are determining how much time you have to meet your obligations.  In standard conveyancing contracts, the days between 27-31 December inclusive are deemed not to be business days.  This means that a condition of the contract or the settlement date cannot be due on those days and will automatically fall due on the next business day.

For 2017, the next business day after 23 December 2016 is 3 January 2017.  The reason for this inclusion of deemed public holidays is that most law firms and the titles registry are closed in the period between Christmas and New Years. Prior to the change in the standard conditions for conveyancing contracts, it was common for parties to negotiate extensions or bring forward settlements to ensure that it would not fall on a date in this period.

  1. Somewhat confusingly the same does not apply in the case of cooling off periods.  As the cooling off period is imposed by statute, the period is not covered by the standard conditions in conveyancing contracts, but by legislation.

As a result the non-public holidays between Christmas and New Years are counted in the calculation of the 5 business day cooling off period.  If you are looking at signing a contract to purchase a property over the next week you should keep this in mind because it is likely that the cooling off period for your contract will expire during the time that most law firms and real estate agencies are closed.  If you are considering that you will need to terminate a contract in the cooling off period and the expiry of that period will fall in the holiday period, you should contact your lawyer or conveyancer to discuss your options now.

If you have any further questions or would like assistance with your property purchase, contact our conveyancing team today.


Queensland’s building and construction industry is set for major reform

December 2nd, 2016

The Queensland Government has released a “Queensland Building Plan” Discussion Paper on 30 November 2016, and is seeking public feedback on reforms to nine areas:

  1. security of payment scheme;
  2. the home warranty scheme;
  3. Plumbing and Drainage Act review;
  4. Queensland Housing Code/ Reconfiguring a Lot Code;
  5. building certification;
  6. livable housing design;
  7. licensing reforms;
  8. non-conforming building products; and
  9. sustainable buildings.

The announcement follows the release of a report by Deloittes into the economic and social benefits of reform to the security of payment regime (currently governed by the Building and Construction Industry Payments Act 2004 and the Subcontractors Charges Act 1974).

The Government proposes to introduce “Project Bank Accounts” (PBAs) to all government projects from 1 January 2018, and to the private sector from January 2019.

A PBA will be a trust account set up by the head contractor which operates as follows:

  1. subcontractor submits progress claim to the head contractor;
  2. head contractor submits payment claim to principal;
  3. principal’s superintendent approves (or rejects) payment claim submitted by a head contractor;
  4. principal pays approved sum into the PBA account; and
  5. bank directly pays the head contractor and the first tier of subcontractors.

A ‘one-stop-shop’ piece of legislation incorporating the proposed PBA legislation, the existing Building and Construction Industry Payments Act 2004 and the Subcontractors Charges Act 1974 is proposed. 

More information is available from the Department of Housing and Public Works

Discussion surveys will be released on 12 December 2016, and information sessions are to be held in February and March 2017.


Miller Harris Lawyers recognised in the ‘Doyles List’ of Leading Lawyers for 2017

December 2nd, 2016

The family law team at Miller Harris Lawyers has been recognised in the prestigious Doyles List of Leading Family and Divorce Lawyers – North Queensland for 2017.  Michael Keogh (Partner) and Julie Hodge (Senior Associate), both senior lawyers practicing exclusively in Miller Harris Lawyers’ Family Law division, have also been individually voted into the Doyles List, as leading family and divorce lawyers.

Doyles compile the list of leading lawyers through extensive independent research including online peer based surveys, as well as telephone and face-to-face interviews with clients, peers and relevant industry bodies.   This is the fourth year running that the Miller Harris Lawyers’ Family Law team has been recognised on the list, a result which underlines the firm’s commitment to providing high quality and practical advice on a range of family law matters.

“We’re delighted to be recognised on the Doyles List again for 2017” Partner Michael Keogh said.  “Getting this recognition through feedback from peers and others reinforces our philosophy of client service and achieving practical outcomes for the people we work with.  Family law can certainly be a challenging area of practice with relationships often strained, and the rights and obligations of the various parties involved needing to be considered. We aim to guide people through what is often one of the most difficult stages of their life in a sensitive and pragmatic way.  Every client’s circumstances are unique and I’d like to  think the fact we are able to adapt our approach to meet each client’s particular needs is one of the reasons we’ve made it onto the Doyles List again for 2017.  Whilst it’s obviously a welcome personal achievement for Julie and me, it also rewards the work all of our team members do to achieve positive results for our clients every day.”

Click here to find out more about the family law services offered by Miller Harris Lawyers.



Miller Harris Lawyers would like to acknowledge the appointment of Australia’s first female High Court Chief Justice

December 1st, 2016

Yesterday it was announced that Justice Susan Kiefel AC will be the next Chief Justice replacing retiring Chief Justice Robert French AC.

Justice Kiefel began her career as a secretary and after working for a group of barristers in Brisbane she took steps to study law.

From this time Justice Kiefel has pioneered the legal field for women in Queensland. Her Honour was appointed as the first female Queen’s Counsel in Queensland in 1987, in 1993 she was the first female judge appointed to the Supreme Court of Queensland and was one of the first women to be appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in 1994.

Upon receiving a phone call from Prime Minister Turnbull confirming her appointment it is reported the Prime Minister said it was a historic moment for women to which Justice Kiefel replied that she regarded it more as a natural progression.

Notably, Justice Kiefel was born in Cairns and we in the tropical north are very proud of Justice Kiefel’s appointment as our nation’s most senior judicial officer.

Photo: Robert Shakespeare