Overview of the Material Fact Guidelines in Victorian Property Purchases:
When it comes to purchasing property, whether it's land, buildings, or Strata in Victoria, there is an often overlooked legislation that aims to protect buyers through the disclosure of crucial information. These guidelines, known as the Material Fact Guidelines, serve as a powerful tool for purchasers to ensure they make informed decisions and conduct thorough due diligence. In this blog post, we will explore the significance of these guidelines and how they can impact real estate agents, vendors, and potential buyers.
The Need for Transparency:
In the past, real estate agents and vendors could rely on the Section 32 document attached to the Contract of Sale or provide generic responses such as "make your own enquiries" or "buyer beware" (Caveat Emptor). However, with the implementation of the Material Fact Guidelines on March 1, 2020, a higher standard of transparency has been mandated. Estate agents are now prohibited from concealing any material facts related to the property being sold. Failure to provide honest answers can result in severe consequences for both the estate agent and the vendor.
The Material Fact Guidelines place substantial pressure on real estate agents and vendors to disclose information that goes beyond what is typically included in the Section 32 documentation. Purchasers now have the right to request additional information and clarification on various aspects of the property. By putting their questions in writing and attaching a copy of the Material Fact Guidelines, buyers can ensure that all verbal inquiries are addressed properly before signing the contract of sale and Section 32.
Covering a Wide Range of Factors:
The guidelines cover a diverse range of factors that potential buyers may want to investigate further. These can include past flooding incidents, water leaks, instances of drug manufacturing on the premises, disputes with builders, insurance claims, undisclosed defects, and any previous professional reports, among others. By seeking written responses to these inquiries, purchasers gain a clearer understanding of the property's history and any potential risks associated with it.
Implications for Real Estate Agents and Owners Corporations:
While real estate agents and vendors are required to provide accurate and complete information, the guidelines acknowledge that in the case of Strata sales, estate agents and vendors will rely on information supplied by an Owners Corporation (OC). This includes the OC Certificate, which is crucial for potential purchasers. However, it is worth noting that not all real estate agents and OC managers may be aware of the existence and significance of this legislation, making it even more important for buyers to exercise their rights and request comprehensive information.
Some additional considerations:
Here are some additional pointers on facts that could be concealed and should be disclosed according to the Material Fact Guidelines:
Floods and Water Damage: One crucial aspect that should be disclosed is any history of flooding on the property. This includes both major flood events and instances of water damage that may have occurred in the past. Floods can lead to significant structural damage, compromise the integrity of the property, and result in long-term issues such as mold growth. Therefore, it is essential for real estate agents and vendors to provide accurate information regarding any previous flooding incidents.
Mold and Dampness: Mold is a common consequence of water damage and excessive moisture in a property. It can have adverse effects on both the structural integrity of the building and the health of its occupants. If the property has a history of flooding or water damage that has resulted in mold growth, this information must be disclosed to potential buyers. It is crucial for purchasers to be aware of any existing or past issues related to mold and dampness so that they can make an informed decision about the property's suitability for their needs.
Structural Defects and Repairs: Any significant structural defects or repairs that have been carried out on the property should be disclosed. This includes issues such as foundation problems, roof damage, plumbing or electrical issues, or any renovations that may have been performed without the necessary permits or approvals. Buyers have the right to know about these aspects as they can impact the safety, functionality, and value of the property.
Environmental Hazards: Certain environmental hazards may exist on or near the property that could pose risks to occupants or affect the desirability of the location. These hazards may include contamination from hazardous substances, such as asbestos, lead-based paint, or underground storage tanks. Real estate agents and vendors have a responsibility to disclose any known environmental hazards associated with the property to potential buyers.
Legal Disputes and Pending Litigation: Any ongoing legal disputes, litigations, or disputes with builders, contractors, or neighbors that could affect the property or its value should be disclosed. This information allows buyers to evaluate any potential risks or complications they may inherit as the new property owners.
By ensuring that these facts are disclosed, potential buyers can make well-informed decisions, mitigate potential risks, and adequately plan for any necessary repairs or remediation. The Material Fact Guidelines aim to provide transparency and protect buyers from unforeseen issues that could significantly impact their investment in a property.
The Material Fact Guidelines introduced in Victoria serve as a vital means of ensuring transparency and protection for property purchasers. By mandating the disclosure of material facts beyond the Section 32 documentation, these guidelines empower buyers to make informed decisions based on a comprehensive understanding of the property. It is essential for purchasers to exercise their rights and follow up verbal inquiries in writing, attaching a copy of the guidelines to facilitate a thorough and transparent transaction. With these guidelines in place, the property market in Victoria can foster greater trust and accountability among all parties involved.
Sale of land act changes – what is a ‘material fact’? (2023) Burke Lawyers. Available at: https://www.burkelawyers.com.au/insights/sale-of-land-act-changes-what-is-a-material-fact/#:~:text=The%20Sale%20of%20Land%20Amendment,a%20property%20when%20selling%20land. (Accessed: 27 May 2023).
Consumer Affairs Victoria, V.G. (2022) Sale of land changes in effect from 1 March - Legislation update, Consumer Affairs Victoria. Available at: https://www.consumer.vic.gov.au/latest-news/sale-of-land-changes-in-effect-legislation-update (Accessed: 27 May 2023).
(No date) Reiv - material fact guidelines - available now. Available at: https://reiv.com.au/policy-resources/latest-news/material-fact-guidelines-available-now (Accessed: 27 May 2023).