Commercial Building Disclosure Program

Energy Efficiency need-to-knows for commercial owners and lessors

Since 1 July 2017 more commercial buildings are now required to disclose energy fficiency before the building goes on the market for sale, lease or sublease.

The Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) Program now requires most sellers and lessors of office space of greater than 1000m2 to obtain a Building Energy Efficiency Certificate (BEEC). Previously, only buildings of 1000m2 or more were under the mandatory disclosure threshold. BEECs must also now be publicly available on the Building Energy Efficiency Register.

This change is due to section 12 of the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act 2010 (Cth) (the BEED Act), which sets out the process for requesting a BEEC. Owners and lessors must provide a current, valid BEEC to potential buyers or lessors free of charge as early as possible in the transaction process or on request.

Why BEECs?

The CBD Program aims to improve the energy efficiency of Australia’s commercial buildings and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. BEECs create a more informed market, with building owners encouraged toward energy efficiency and green buildings.

BEECs provide consistent, meaningful and comparable information about the energy efficiency performance of individual buildings, making it easier for prospective buyers and tenants to choose more energy-efficient spaces.

Applying for a BEEC

The BEECs are issued by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Only accredited CBD assessors can apply for BEECs on behalf of building owners or lessors. The Australian Government provides a register of CBD assessors accredited under the Act. Penalties apply for failing to comply with your obligations under the BEED Act.

A BEEC has two parts:

  1. National Australian Built Environment Rating System “NABERS”
  2. Tenancy Lighting Assessment “TLA”.

Once a NABERS star rating and a TLA have been obtained, the CBD Accredited Assessor can apply for a BEEC on your behalf. The NABERS star rating must be used in all advertising material for the sale, lease or sublease of the building or space.

Owners and lessors are not required to continuously maintain a valid BEEC. However, the information in a BEEC can cover a significant period (such as electricity bills over a year, and logs for after-hours air conditioning).

You can check if your building is affected by the CBD Program here. Information about buildings that may not be affected due to exceptions and exemptions is available here.

Please contact us today if you need assistance in obtaining a BEEC for your commercial property, or have any questions about the CBD Program and how it may affect you.

Conveyancing clients beware – Conveyancing targeted by cybercriminals

Scammers posing as conveyancers have recently swindled clients in South Australia and Western Australia, with Queensland property buyers also warned to be alert.

In the three South Australian and Western Australian cases, property buyers were targeted by fraudsters posing as their conveyancers. In each incident, clients were sent bogus emails with bank account details and asked to deposit money.

The Adelaide Advertiser has reported that in one case, quick action meant that the National Australia Bank was able to cancel the transaction and retrieve the victim’s money. However, other victims may not be so lucky, and could potentially lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Authorities continue to warn clients of conveyancing firms Australia-wide about email scams.

Although many people know to be wary of sharing personal information on public platforms like Facebook, in these cases it appears that the clients’ private emails discussing their imminent property purchases were intercepted by the fraudsters.

Spot On Conveyancing continues and updates its previous warning to clients about receiving emails purportedly from us asking you to deposit money into a bank account to finalise your property deal.

Cyberscam warnings remain current

The sophisticated real estate cyberscam has prompted strong warnings from Consumer Protection.

The Australian Institute of Conveyancers has also distributed advice to its members and is working with insurers. However, the institute’s South Australian CEO Rebecca Hayes emphasises that consumers also need to be alert and take responsibility for their own cybersafety.

Spot On Conveyancing repeats our advice to clients to be wary of sharing personal information online, even by email, about your intentions to purchase property, and to always check banking or email details in person with your settlement agency. Please contact us immediately if you receive such an email.

To report a cyber attack or loss to a scam, contact Consumer and Business Services on 131 882.

Priority Notices replacing Settlement Notices on 1 January 2018

Spot On Conveyancing alerts buyers and sellers in Queensland that Priority Notices will replace the current Queensland Settlement Notices from 1 January 2018. This is in line with the Land and Other Legislation Act 2016 (LOLA Act 2016), which became law on 30 March 2017.

There will be no transition period. This means that the Titles Registry must have accepted your Settlement Notice by close of business on Friday 22 December 2017. Titles Registry cannot accept a Settlement Notice from 1 January 2018 even if it was executed before that date.

If you deposit your Form 23 – Settlement Notice by Friday 22 December 2017 it will continue to have effect until it lapses or is withdrawn, removed or cancelled.

But from 1 January 2018, it is a Priority Notice Form that must be used instead.

Both forms are available for download from the Queensland Government Business Queensland website.

Automated Titling System

Settlement notices are recorded on the Automated Titling System to provide protection of a transferee’s interests under a contract over a title. They also offer protection to a potential mortgagee of such a purchaser against lodgement of interests not otherwise specified between the time of settlement of the contract and lodgement of the document in the Titles Registry.

The LOLA Act, which became law earlier this year, amended the Land Title Act 1994 (Qld) and Land Act 1994 (Qld) to provide for Priority Notices to replace Settlement Notices, plus other minor amendments.

The main functions of the new Priority Notice will remain fundamentally the same as Settlement Notices. There will, however, be some minor changes. These include that Priority Notices will encompass a wider range of instruments and transactions – they are not limited like Settlement Notices to just a transferor/transferee transaction.

Priority Notices will last for 60 days, like Settlement Notices, and can also be extended by a further 30 days to a maximum of 90 days.

Settlement Notices were only able to be lodged once. But there is now no explicit restriction on lodging more than one Priority Notice after the lapsing, withdrawal or cancellation of the first Priority Notice.

Future transactions should take into account the additional protections afforded by Priority Notices, and how these may affect the property in question.

Spot On Conveyancing: expert legal guidance

Other minor changes have been introduced by the LOLA Act that relate to how a person may be registered as trustee of an interest in a lot, registering beneficiaries, and lapsing of caveats, among other things.

Please contact us today if you have any questions or concerns about how the legislative changes may affect you.

Energy Price Rises

Energy prices are rarely out of the news these days, and prices rose again in Queensland on 1 July. Spot On Conveyancing has a few tips to getting value for money and avoiding bill shock this summer.

1. Audit your bills

In Queensland householders can choose who to buy your gas and electricity from. But with that freedom comes the necessity of being well-informed enough to make wise choices.

Unfortunately, the energy providers can employ pushy sales tactics. Don’t sign anything until you have had the time to research your options, and take advantage of the compulsory cooling off period. If in doubt contact the Australian Energy Regulator.

The plethora of contracts in the market can be difficult to compare. Make use of comparison services such as Compare the Market, and be prepared to set aside some time to make the best decision. Good decisions can be well worth your while.

You’ll find that some providers offer discounts, but be sure to read the fine print, as these may only apply under certain circumstances, such as early payment, and leave you comparatively worse off otherwise.

2. Reduce your usage

Switch appliances off at the wall when you are not using them. Energy Australia has found that appliances on standby account for up to 10% of your power bill. Try making it easier for yourself by using power boards so you only have to turn off one switch for several appliances. Try also making a night-time routine of going around your home to switch off everything you don’t need overnight.

Choose the cold water cycle and/or the economy or quick cycle to wash your clothes. Also try the economy cycle on your dishwasher.

3. Pay on time

Penalties for late payment can be high, especially if you get disconnected. If you are struggling to meet your bill, be sure to contact your provider before the bill due date to make an arrangement with them.

Another good strategy to manage large bills is to set up periodic direct debits from your bank account that you can synch to your payday. These can be adjusted to your usage, and some providers even offer discounts for selecting this option.

Stop your power bills from going through the roof this summer. Take control – and stay cool.

Scammers Target Conveyancing

Scammers target property buyers and conveyancers

Property buyers should be sure to verify all bank account and email information before transferring any money.

Buyers in South Australia and Western Australia have recently been targeted by fraudsters posing as conveyancers. In each case, the people received bogus emails purporting to be from their settlement agency asking them to deposit money into a bank account to finalise the transaction on their purchase of property.

It is the first time authorities have seen scammers posing as conveyancers. The scam has prompted warnings from Consumer Protection to be wary of sharing personal information by email or otherwise online, and to always check banking or email details in person with your settlement agency.

Cybersafety paramount

“It appears that the scammers have hacked into somebody’s email account and in this case the person clearly had said that they were buying a house,” said Consumer Protection director of property industries, Stephen Meagher, about the Western Australian incident.

“One thing we always say is that on your Facebook and [on the internet], don’t tell people you’re buying a house or selling a house or going on holidays and things like that,” he said. “You just don’t want stuff out in the public domain so people know your private business.”

Conveyancers issue scam warning

The Australian Institute of Conveyancers has warned that the scam has the potential to cause a property settlement to become void if the funds can’t be met within the settlement period. Most people, of course, do not have the wherewithal to absorb losses on the scale of these email scams, which are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Institute’s South Australian CEO Rebecca Hayes says that although conveyancers and real estate agencies have been warned about the scam and how to take protective steps, consumers must also be aware of the risks and take the advice of insurers and authorities:

“It’s really important that consumers pick up the phone and check those details and check that the email is a legitimate email prior to actually transferring any money.”

Spot On Conveyancing strongly advises you to contact us immediately if you receive any email requesting you to pay money to us.

Link To Article On ABC

Foreign resident capital gains withholding 2017

The Australian Government made changes on 9 May 2017 to the withholding rate and threshold for the foreign resident capital gains withholding (FRCGW). The changes came into effect for all contracts entered into on or after 1 July 2017.

What is the foreign resident capital gains withholding?

The initial FRCGW scheme was introduced on 1 July 2016. It applied when sellers are foreign residents, and required buyers of property worth $2 million or more to withhold 10% of the purchase price, paying that sum to the ATO after settlement.

An exception to the withholding tax is when the seller provides the buyer with a Clearance Certificate. This is issued by the ATO and confirms that the seller is an Australian resident and that the buyer is therefore not required to withhold the payment.

What are the new capital gains tax rate and threshold?

The new changes will capture a much larger portion of the Australian property market.

The threshold of $2 million has been lowered to $750,000 and the rate of withholding tax has been increased to 12.5% of the purchase price.

The same exception applies when an Australian seller gives the buyer a Clearance Certificate.

Capital gains withholding: the consequences of non-compliance

If you are the buyer and you do not receive a Clearance Certificate from a foreign seller and fail to pay 12.5% of the purchase price to the ATO, you will become personally liable for that amount as a penalty.

What Spot On can do for you

When Spot On Conveyancing is acting on behalf of the seller, we will ensure that we identify all contracts over $750,000 and that sellers meet all requirements. We will make the application for the Clearance Certificate on behalf of Australian sellers. (Application forms are available on the ATO website.)

When we are acting on behalf of the buyer, we will ensure that the buyer obtains a Clearance Certificate before settlement on the property, wherever a Clearance Certificate is applicable.

DIY Conveyancing: Not such a great idea after all

DIY Conveyancing

DIY conveyancing kits and forms are readily available online. If you’ve found Spot On’s site through an online search, it’s likely you encountered ads and articles about DIY conveyancing along the way of your cyber travels.

You might also have been tempted by the thought of saving money. But it would surely be a a false economy to place your most valuable asset at risk. DIY conveyancing carries high, and to most of us, unacceptable risks.

Professional Conveyancing lawyers like at Spot On have years of training and experience. The services that qualified lawyers provide are not inexpensive, but they do represent good value. Using a cookie-cutter DIY kit could leave you exposed to unacceptable risk to do with what is probably your most valuable asset.

You risk your sale falling through if you are a seller and your purchase being a dud if you are a buyer. Go it alone and you have no support if and when things go wrong.

Property law and the requirements for conveyancing are constantly changing, and it is our business to keep abreast of these changing conditions. You may not know when your DIY Kit was created and what myriad factors you need to be across when you attempt to do your own conveyancing.

We are accustomed to dealing with the range of professionals whose work intersects with our own, such as mortgage brokers, property inspectors, real estate agents and banking professionals.

Having a professional conveyancing lawyer handle your property transactions will also save you stress. We not only have the skills, qualifications and experience to do the job effectively and safely, we also have record-keeping systems in place. With DIY conveyancing, you risk overwhelming yourself with paperwork and record-keeping.

DIY conveyancing could really only be a recommended choice if you absolutely cannot afford legal services. Thankfully, this rarely arises as sellers can pay from the proceeds of the sale and buyers can pay by making the conveyancing costs part of the total price of purchase.

Don’t place your most valuable asset at risk. Contact us today for professional services you can trust.

Spot On Conveyancing discusses 2017 real estate trends and risks

Trends in real estate for 2017

Spot On has been watching the trends in real estate in 2017 with interest, as well as the public discussions they have generated.

apartment building

The great Australian dream of home ownership is never far out of the news. That’s whether it is the Prime Minister warning borrowers about the likelihood of rates going up, or debate whether home-ownership is now out of reach for Gen Y and Millennials — and who’d be to blame if it is, their Boomer parents, or just themselves for over-spending on smashed avocado breakfasts at over-priced hipster cafes.

Property ownership certainly does have a unique place in the Australian way of life and aspirations. This won’t be going away, never mind any doom-mongering talk otherwise, not with around 500,000 properties changing hands each year, or according to figures published by the Reserve Bank of Australia. That’s around 6% of all housing stock in the country, every year.

 

Risks for young players: apartment over-supply and off-the-plan buying

While property prices in the capital cities, especially Sydney and Melbourne but also including Brisbane, are going sky-high, still there are vast numbers of first-time buyers as well as investors purchasing property.

We see the oversupply of apartments in inner Brisbane and consequent market imbalance as a risk to their value and ability to provide anticipated rental yields.

Another common pitfall we see is buying off-the-plan, with unwary buyers finding themselves locked into inflexible contracts that can then be very expensive for them to escape from.

 

How Spot On Conveyancing can help

Both of these kinds of risks can lead to serious financial consequences. Professional, informed and impartial advice such as we can provide at Spot On Conveyancing is essential before you sign any contracts. Your decisions about property ownership are too important and far-reaching not to be well-informed.

Contact Spot On Conveyancing today for friendly, highly trained and authoritative advice about all of your property ownership matters. We will ensure you safely navigate the complex waters of property buying and selling.

Cooling off periods

All sales of residential properties have as a legal requirement for the property transaction a cooling-off period of five days, unless they are exempt contracts. Certain conditions apply that are designed to protect the buyer and seller. Make sure you understand what you as a buyer must do if you wish to cancel the contract.

During the cooling off period, the buyer has the right to terminate the contract, although the seller can impose a penalty in the case the buyer has paid a deposit.

As the real estate industry is a regulated one, the Queensland Government offers information to the public about cooling off periods. Spot On Conveyancing summarises below the main points, and can assist you by:

  • advising whether a cooling off period applies to your contract
  • reviewing any contracts buyers may be asked to sign to waive or shorten the cooling off period
  • preparing documentation for sellers to waive or shorten the cooling off period.

The cooling off period starts the day the buyer receives a copy of the contract that has been signed by both parties. If the contract arrives on a weekend or public holiday, the cooling-off period starts the next business day.

Please note that the cooling-off period still applies if a representative takes it on the buyer’s behalf.

The cooling-off period ends at 5pm on the fifth day. The buyer must then follow through on the contract and buy the property – subject to the terms of the contract.

Exempt sales

Some contracts are exempt from cooling-off periods.  These are:

  • sales by auction
  • follow-up sales after an unsuccessful auction, under certain conditions
  • option contracts (or sales contracts formed as the result of an option contract).

Other circumstances for exemption:

  • publicly listed corporations
  • the State, and statutory bodies
  • buying at least three lots at the same time.

Cancelling sales

In order to cancel a sale contract, the buyer must give the seller written notice by 5pm of the fifth (final) day of the cooling off period. The seller may do deduct a penalty of up to 0.25% of the purchase price from the deposit, and must refund the balance of the deposit within 14 days.

Waiving or shortening the period

If the buyer wishes to waive or shorten the cooling-off period, they must put it in writing, stating they are waiving the cooling-off period entirely or that it will last until 5pm on a particular day.

Queensland buyers of residential property should be alert to the possibility that one of the documents associated with the contract of sale might have the effect of waiving or shortening their cooling-off period.

Such a document can be particularly difficult for buyers to identify when it is included with other documents and presented in a similar format. Be sure to carefully check all the documents attached to your contract of sale, as you may inadvertently deprive yourself of your legislative right to terminate a contract during the cooling-off period by signing such a document.

The deposit

The buyer must pay the deposit at the time set out in the contract. The deposit holder is usually the seller’s agent, and must put the deposit in a trust account This money cannot be accessed until:

  • the seller is entitled to the money on settlement day
  • thebuyer is entitled to the money because they lawfully cancelled the sale contract.

Don’t be a victim of property fraud

Beware identity fraud.

Identity theft is on the rise, and has been used to perpetrate property fraud in several recent cases. The methods used by fraudsters are also becoming more sophisticated. The onus is on all of us to take personal responsibility for protecting our identity, and also for checking the true identity of people posing as property owners.

The Queensland Government has published some guidelines to help you protect yourself and your business against property fraud, and we summarise the main points here.

Don’t put yourself, your clients or your business at risk.

Details vary in the recent cases, but they had in common that property was sold without the true owner’s consent. To prevent a fraudulent transaction, the onus is on real estate agents, sales people and auctioneers to thoroughly check a person’s identity before listing a property for sale.

Beware the following red flags, in isolation or especially in combination:

  • a recent change of address or other personal details, not provided until after instructions to sell
  • overseas vendors, or documents issued overseas or witnessed by people overseas
  • requests for funds to be sent to offshore accounts or accounts not usually used by the client
  • advice the sale is urgent due to unsubstantiated family illness or overseas investment opportunities
  • new generic email addresses, especially hotmail, yahoo or gmail.

The government guidelines recommend using a current title search, and verifying the basic characteristics of the property, such as its description, the full names of the owners, and whether it is owned by a legal entity such as a trust.

You are breaking the law if you ignore your responsibilities to check true ownership of a property, and its characteristics and approvals and compliance.

Manage risks

We recommend you devise, and ensure you and your team strictly adhere to, a documented procedure for handling contact and banking detail changes, escalating unusual occurrences and handling sales when the owners themselves are not able to be present in person. Keep yourself, your clients and your business safe by:

  • keeping accurate records
  • confirming key details (e.g., that signatures match)
  • conducting 100-point identity checks
  • keeping a register of client signatures
  • keeping records of any odd or suspicious interactions with clients
  • completing property sales in person wherever possible.