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Unfair terms in residential land contracts : will the Australian consumer law improve a buyer’s bargaining position?

Christensen, Sharon & Duncan, William D. (2012) Unfair terms in residential land contracts : will the Australian consumer law improve a buyer’s bargaining position? Competition and Consumer Law Journal, 20(1), pp. 56-83.

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Abstract

The prohibition on unfair contract terms in standard form consumer contracts has the potential to significantly impact on the terms of contracts for the sale of land. The definition of ‘consumer contract’ includes contracts for the sale or grant of an interest in land to an individual wholly or predominantly for personal or domestic use. Therefore, a contract for the purchase of a residence for personal occupation by the buyer, as opposed to a purchase for investment purposes, will be a consumer contract potentially attracting the application of the unfair terms provisions. Significant consumer protection mechanisms already exist in most state jurisdictions requiring disclosure of relevant matters to the buyer and providing remedies for the provision of misleading conduct. Minimal evidence of unfair terms in land contract was presented to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into the Australian Consumer Policy Framework raising the question as to whether there is an identified problem of unfair terms in real estate contracts and if so, whether the same economic and ethical rationales justify regulatory intervention. This article examines what effect if any the introduction of the unfair contract provisions will have on the enforcement of residential land contracts and the viability of previously accepted conditions if challenged as being “unfair terms”. The article concludes that despite the existence of several potentially unfair terms in some land contracts, the intervention of the rules of equity to overcome perceived hardship or unfairness to buyers from strict enforcement of terms means the unfair terms provisions are only likely to operate on terms untouched by those principles. In the authors’ view the scope for operation of the unfair terms provisions will be limited to terms untouched by the principles of equity and consumer protection legislation making it unlikely that there will be any significant realignment of the contractual obligations and rights of buyers and sellers of land.

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ID Code: 50667
Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: unfair terms, residential land contracts, consumer, Australian Consumer Law
ISSN: 1039-5598
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Commercial and Contract Law (180105)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 LexisNexis Australia
Deposited On: 02 Aug 2012 16:01
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2013 20:38

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