Queensland’s property laws have come under fire as more developers use sunset clauses to cancel contracts and leave would-be first home buyers priced out of the market.
- First home buyer Yasmin Resier was worried that her contract with a developer could be cancelled in August
- Councillor Mark Hammel said he was aware of six other projects where developers were using a sunset clause to cancel contracts
- Queensland Attorney General Shannon Fentiman said use of sunset clauses was increasing and property laws were under review
Gold Coast resident Yasmin Reiser said she signed a contract to buy a 315-square-metre lot for $270,000 in the Elevate Estate at Ormeau Hills during February 2021.
But after lengthy delays she was worried a sunset clause could be activated to rescind the contract after 18 months.
“The registration for the stage that I was purchasing into was scheduled to happen by April 2021,” she said.
“Now we are in April 2022 and, while a lot of work has recently happened in the estate … we’re still not at a stage where we have been able to get to that registration and settlement.”
Ms Resier said that she and several other buyers had a condition in their contracts that allowed them, and the developers, to cancel the contract if the development had not been finalised within 18 months.
“I don’t know that that’s going to happen by my sunset date in August,” she said.
“A lot of other people in the same situation as myself — first homebuyers, people with families — essentially are now in a position where they have had their contracts cancelled.”
Ms Reiser said they had been left priced out of the Queensland market, “which had obviously skyrocketed since they signed their contracts in late 2020 or early in 2021”.
“They do get their deposit back, but it’s not enough to make up that difference to buy now in a crazy, inflated market,” she said.
She worried that she might have to submit another contract at a much higher price.
“Other buyers, I have spoken to, said during conversations with the developer that they indicated they would be asking another $180,000 on top of the original purchase price,” Ms Reiser said.
‘Bound by legislation’
Ormeau Developments, which is developing Elevate Estate, said it was continuing to work towards the completion and settlement of contracted lots at the estate.
“The project has encountered a series of unexpected challenges and we continue to work with our contractors, the local authority and neighbouring landowners, to resolve these technical issues in a timely manner,” a spokesperson said.
“The project has also experienced unprecedented weather delays that has further impacted on the progress of the development.
“Ormeau Developments is bound by any legislation regarding off-the-plan contract sales and will abide by that legislation.”
City of Gold Coast councillor Mark Hammel said delay in approving the subdivision had been, in part, due to ongoing negotiations between the Elevate Estate developer and a neighbouring property developer who had an underlying approval over both land parcels.
“It has been a fair process of them [developers] trying to negotiate in between each other … and it hasn’t been negotiating with council.
“[Council officers] know there are contracts being cancelled and I think it’s fair to say that officers have been attempting to get the developers to get information in so it could be assessed and they could get decisions out.”
But Mr Hammel said he was aware of six other projects in south-east Queensland where developers were using a sunset clause to cancel contracts.
He said NSW had introduced laws that put extra disclosure obligations on vendors so purchasers had greater transparency and stronger protections when buying off the plan.
“The protection that should be in place for buyers isn’t there.
“I think the state government needs to question whether they’ve got the right legislation in place and the right protections for buyers.”
Queensland Attorney General Shannon Fentiman said the issue had been occurring across the state.
“There has been an increase, I think, in developers utilising these clauses,” she said.
“These sunset clauses are not in the approved Real Estate Institute of Queensland Law Society contract.
Ms Fentiman said Queensland’s property rules were under review.
“We are rewriting the entire Property Law Act right now in Queensland [and] it’s been a long time coming,” she said.
“I hope to have legislation in the parliament at the end of this year or early next year.”
Any changes were likely to arrive too late for Yasmin Reiser, however, who has four months until the sunset clause on her contract could be activated by the developer.
“I could be another one of these people that misses out.”