Pass the Joint

Several decades ago, when the original representatives of the Law Society and the Real Estate Institute sat around discussing contractual arrangements for the sale of property, “pass the joint” meant something entirely different to an after-party at a Doors concert.

In Western Australia, the development of the Joint Form of General Conditions for the Sale of Land was a significant achievement enabling buyers and sellers to rely on a single standardised document to manage each party’s contractual obligations.

The Joint Form is aptly named from the “joint” ownership of the form by The Law Society of WA and REIWA as well as a reference to it being used “jointly” with the Offer and Acceptance document as provided by REIWA.

The General Conditions have undergone many revisions over the years, adapting to the evolving legal landscape, changes to common law and the introduction of new legislation. The current revision is from 2011 although the most significant changes were drafted by Mr John Symington in 2002 after the somewhat problematic 2000 revision enabled broad Requisitions on Title that caused significant problems for vendors in particular.

The 2000 Joint Form allowed purchasers to inquire about the property after contract prior to settlement and ask as many questions as they wished with the vendor compelled to reply. This often led to buyer representatives inquiring at the local council if all improvements on the land were formally approved which – for older dwellings – was not always the case. Contractual carnage ensued with buyers refusing to settle, local governments not able to retrospectively approve buildings, Ministerial involvement and penalty interest payable by the Vendor for months of delayed settlement.

John Symington and the Joint Form Review Committee are heroes (in nerdy, legal-eagle kind of way) by making the necessary changes that enabled fairer application of these Requisitions.

The current revision is undergoing a forensic review right now with substantive changes expected in September this year. The introduction of new laws around foreign ownership will need to be included as will some modifications around changes to the Strata Titles Act for example.

The humble Joint Form has stood the test of time and is largely unaltered since 2002. It modestly affects the settlement of tens-of-thousands of properties every year. It’s a document that we take for granted but in its absence, buyers and sellers (like they do in NSW) would be spending thousands of dollars on lawyers to draft individual contracts for each and every sale.

The passing of this Joint leaves everyone with clear obligations and a clear head.

By Hayden Groves – REIWA President

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