Amendments to the Local Government Act 1989 mean that solicitors acting for buyers and sellers of real estate now need to take into account any charges recorded against the property relating to funding for cladding rectification.
Concern about defective cladding used in the construction of high-rise residential buildings has resulted in the government adopting a legislative solution intended to provide some solace to unit owners who are faced with rectification costs, but it also has an impact on third-party purchasers of such properties.
Responsibility for administration of the solution has been allocated to municipal Councils, with a new Part 8B inserted into the Local Government Act 1989, which came into operation on 30 October 2018. This authorises Councils to enter into a ‘cladding rectification agreement’ with the owner of rateable land, or an Owners Corporation, and a lending body – presumably a conventional financier. Council may also be the lending body, but it is difficult to imagine, in the short term at least, that Councils will assume this role. Thus, the standard agreement will be tripartite, between the owner or Owners Corporation, the Council and a lender.
These agreements provide that the lender will advance the funds to pay the rectification works and Council will levy a charge on the land to recover the loan advance, interest and fees associated with the levy by instalments over a period of not less than 10 years.
Adjustment on purchase
In relation to the effect on departing and incoming owners, s 185L treats the cladding rectification levy as a ‘service charge’. Section 162 authorises the imposition of a service charge and s 185L (6) requires a cladding rectification charge to be paid by instalments. A vendor is obliged to disclose statutory charges pursuant to s 32A (b) of the Sale of Land Act 1962 and also charges ‘for which the purchaser will become liable in consequence of the sale’ pursuant to s 32A (c). Disclosure of current charges and any arrears may be achieved by annexing a rate notice, a land information certificate or giving an estimate, but the vendor is also obliged to disclose future liabilities due under the cladding rectification charge and information provided by Council will be crucial in this regard.
Any arrears under the levy will be the vendor’s responsibility, the current instalment will be adjusted between the parties at settlement and the outstanding levy will become the responsibility of the purchaser as a charge on the land: s 156 (6).
Section 175 allows a purchaser to continue to pay charges by instalments. A purchaser will therefore need to adjust the price to take account of the outstanding cladding rectification levy that the purchaser will become liable for and full disclosure in this regard is essential so as to allow the purchaser to set its price.
The Sale and Purchase commentary within the By Lawyers Conveyancing (VIC) Guide has been updated accordingly.