Many legal minds making NZ LAW work

We are an association of independent legal practices, proactively sharing ideas and expertise for the benefit of our clients.

Don't Rush into Signing an Agreement for S&P

Published: 4th November 2016

Author: Pat Stuart, Rejthar Stuart Law

Published in: Property e.Speaking | Issue #23

Always wait to get legal advice

Buying a house – on a stress scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the worst) – is said to be an 11. You have viewed numerous houses, taken off your shoes at every single one of them as you traipse through living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms, and agonised and argued over which house to buy. Now comes that important decision – to sign or not to sign?

You’re then presented with an agreement for sale and purchase, which is possibly one of the most important documents you will sign. In these days of escalating property prices and short supply, there’s often pressure to sign without your lawyer’s input, with no due diligence clause and often it is an unconditional offer. Once you sign the agreement, you are committed to the purchase. You can, however, be prepared before you sign the agreement. Talk with us when you’re starting to look for a new property and we can help you with the drafting of some clauses; two of which we discuss below.

Equitable set-off

Clause 8 in the standard agreement covers claims for compensation by way of what’s called equitable set-off (ESO). An ESO situation can arise after a purchaser’s pre-settlement inspection, which is usually done two or three days before settlement. Here’s a real life ESO example. The purchaser carried out a pre-settlement inspection and noticed a locked cupboard in the house. The vendor said he was growing cucumbers. The purchaser had her suspicions that the vendor was growing cannabis, which turned out to be the case. A claim for compensation was lodged by way of an ESO for in excess of $100,000 to pay for decontamination.

The timing of an ESO claim is critical. If there’s no settlement notice in place, the claim must be made on or before the last working day before the settlement date in the agreement. It’s not, as is so often the case, on the day of settlement. Any claim must be genuine and realistic. You should not, for example, claim $5,000 because the back porch is dirty.

We recommend you carry out the pre-settlement inspection a few days before settlement, not early on the day of settlement. If you make an ESO claim, we need a reasonable opportunity to sort it out before settlement.

And following up the cucumber claim, happily – for the vendor – it was sorted out by settlement date as the purchaser withdrew her claim.

Solicitor’s approval clause

Some people believe that having a solicitor’s approval clause in their sale and purchase agreement is as good as a due diligence clause. It is not.

A solicitor’s approval clause is useful where there is a genuine legal objection or impediment to the sale, such as the validity of the title. This clause can be for the benefit of the vendor or the purchaser – if there are genuine reasons to use this clause.

The clause is less than useful if you want to cancel the agreement because you made a bad decision.

A true life example of how this clause works follows. A purchaser put in an offer on a house on a Saturday before a Sunday open home. The vendor insisted on a standard solicitor’s approval clause, for her benefit, and both parties signed. More than 200 people came to the Sunday open home. The vendor realised, with horror, that she could have got $100,000 or more than the agreed sale price and attempted to cancel the agreement on the basis that her solicitor did not approve it. One caveat and a flurry of letters later the vendor accepted the inevitable and the deal went ahead. The fact that the vendor had changed her mind was not enough to invoke the clause to enable her to get out of the agreement.

In conclusion, read your agreement before signing and don’t be persuaded to sign anything you’re unsure about. Most importantly, however, talk with us before signing, not after.

Related Articles

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Canterbury
  • Coromandel
  • Gisborne
  • Hawke's Bay
  • Kapiti Coast
  • Manawatu - Wanganui
  • Marlborough
  • Nelson
  • Northland
  • Otago
  • Southland
  • Taranaki
  • Waikato
  • Wairarapa
  • Wellington
  • West Coast

Lowndes Jordan

Lowndes Jordan is a top niche law firm committed to service excellence, achieved through our dedication to understanding our clients' individual needs and requirements, developing tailored solutions and following through to ensure results are delivered.

Our commitment to quality is supported by being the first ISO 9001 certified law firm in New Zealand.

Lowndes Jordan has access to some of the nation's foremost legal and business advisory experts, allowing us to provide a full range of inputs to assist you in meeting your objectives.

We serve a wide range of clients including listed companies, multinationals, privately held companies, entrepreneurs and business individuals.

All clients have direct access to specialist partners and client service teams comprised of senior practitioners.

Region: Auckland

Phone: 09 309 2500

Kaimai Law Limited

Kaimai Law Bethlehem has been based in Bethlehem, Tauranga for nearly a decade, and our new office at The Lakes opened in March 2017.  The majority of lawyers in our professional team at Kaimai Law Bethlehem & Kaimai Law The Lakes has 10 to 30+ years of experience in their respective fields, which means that they have the knowledge required to give you legal advice you can trust. 

Kaimai Law Bethlehem & Kaimai Law The Lakes specialise in all property matters including conveyancing, finance and subdivisions, as well as family law, commercial law, estate planning, estate administration, trusts, wills, employment law and relationship property. Kaimai Law Bethlehem & The Lakes are your one stop law shops in Tauranga.

Region: Bay of Plenty

Phone: 07 579 3316

Malley & Co

Our experienced, solutions-focused team will work hard to get you the best possible outcome, whatever your legal needs.

Region: Canterbury

Phone: 03 379 0712

Purnell Lawyers

There is nothing as inevitable as change. Since opening for business early last century, we at Purnell Lawyers have seen many changes both in name and in the people who have made up the members of our team. We have been privileged to have served the public throughout all of these times. 

We are confident that we will continue to bring top quality legal services to our clients well into the future.

Region: Coromandel

Phone: 07 868 8680

Woodward Chrisp

At Woodward Chrisp we strive to meet the needs of our clients by providing a wide range of high quality legal services within a supportive and collaborative environment.

Woodward Chrisp is the amalgamation of two long established Gisborne legal firms: Woodward Iles & Co and Chrisp and Chrisp. Today’s partners are Ross Revington, Adam Simperingham, Jeff Allen and Ellie FitzGerald.

Region: Gisborne

Phone: 06 869 0900

Gifford Devine

For all life’s matters, the team at Gifford Devine have your back. Since 1896, our lawyers have been providing straight-talking, practical advice and advocacy to people, families and businesses in Hawke’s Bay.

As your legal champions, we’ll serve you as a trusted adviser, listen to your needs, offer plain English advice, and find a solution to get you the best possible outcome.

We have the expertise to identify potential legal issues, to help you make important decisions, and to realise your goals. We’re your legal champions for all reasons and at all stages of life.

Region: Hawke's Bay

Phone: 06 873 0420

BMC Lawyers

BMC lawyers has built a reputation for providing quality service and delivering real results. Our strength is our broad-ranging legal experience that gives us the ability to match clients with the right mix of legal skills for their particular needs.

Our legal professionals are passionate about what they do and work alongside a talented team of support and administration staff to make a real positive difference to our clients.”

Region: Kapiti Coast

Phone: 04 296 1105

Horsley Christie

Horsley Christie is a successful law firm based in Whanganui which offers a diverse range of legal services to the Whanganui Region and beyond and has done for over 100 years.

When you deal with Horsley Christie you do so in the knowledge that the firm is one of many law practices nationwide who are members of NZ LAW.

Region: Manawatu - Wanganui

Phone: 06 349 0090

Wain & Naysmith

Based in Blenheim, Wain & Naysmith Lawyers is a full service law firm, and a powerhouse for property, family and business law.

We pride ourselves in providing clear and cost effective legal solutions and practical advice for you, your family and your business.

Region: Marlborough

Phone: 03 520 6103

Knapps Lawyers

As a firm, we promise to look after you and treat you in a manner that we would expect to be treated by a professional services provider; we promise to use every available legal remedy available to us to resolve your issue and to do what you ask us to do in a timely manner.

We will hold in strict confidence all information that we acquire through our work for you and which concerns your business or personal information.  The only exceptions are where you authorise us to disclose such information or where we must do so by law.

Region: Nelson

Phone: 03 544 7888

Law North Limited

We pride ourselves on being a "general store" for most legal issues but also have several in-house experts in specialised areas including trusts, relationship property, business and property law.  No matter what your issue is - whether you are looking for trusted legal advisers to steer you through life, or you have a one-off problem to sort out - we would be pleased to help.

Law North Ltd provides a broad range of legal services across the Far North district from our base in Kerikeri.   We have operated in the area for over 100 years and have a long-standing history of providing legal services to a diverse client base, including businesses and private clients.   Our directors and their families have been part of the Bay of Islands community for several generations and remain committed to the area and its people.  We often call upon strong local knowledge to resolve issues for clients whilst remaining vigilant about client confidentiality.

Region: Northland

Phone: 09 407 7099

Mactodd

MacTodd is a leading South Island law firm with a national reputation for its experience and expertise across a wide range of the law.

Serving the local community and national and offshore clients for over 40 years, MacTodd prides itself on being a fully comprehensive law firm with an innovative approach, meeting the demands and time zones of its diverse clientele.

MacTodd's hallmark is our friendly and professional approach. Our state-of-the-art technology provides an accurate, efficient and cost-effective service.

Region: Otago

Phone: 03 441 0125

Sheddan Pritchard Law Ltd

Incorporating traditional values and a fresh perspective, Sheddan Pritchard Law is here to assist you with all your legal needs. 

Our friendly and team-driven approach underpins our firm’s values, recognising the importance of putting people first and allows us to connect and nurture professional relationships with new and existing clients within our local community of Gore, as well as throughout New Zealand and extending overseas.

Region: Southland

Phone: 03 209 0030

RMY Legal

Having been a cornerstone in the New Plymouth and Taranaki legal community since the 1930s we offer in-depth knowledge coupled with legal expertise and always put the needs of you and your business at the heart of what we do.

Not only do we offer a first class service to clients throughout Taranaki, we are passionate about what we do and our success stems from delivering advice in clear and understandable terms.

Region: Taranaki

Phone: 06 769 8080

Edmonds Judd

Edmonds Judd is based in Te Awamutu with an office in Otorohanga and continues to proudly serve the Waikato District as it has done for over 100 years. Known as a firm that generations of families have relied on and looked to for advice and assistance in both the good times and the bad, Edmonds Judd is the friendly and trusted name in legal services. Blending experience with cutting edge technology, which is rivalled only by the level of service and satisfaction which is provided to its loyal clients. Edmonds Judd’s friendly staff are more than happy to assist you in any enquiry you may have.

We will provide you with:

  • Smart and innovative legal thinking
  • Plain and simple language, instead of legal jargon
  • Decades of knowledge and broad perspectives from our widely experienced team
  • Access to the resources and skills of the NZ LAW group that Edmonds Judd is a member of.
  • You’ll have the knowledge of over 55 independent law firms behind you.

Region: Waikato

Gawith Burridge

Gawith Burridge traces its history back to 1875 when Charles Gawith first set up his practice. Since then the firm has undergone many changes, including a merger between Gawith & Co and Burridge & Co in 1998 to form our current practice.

Our firm draws on the breadth of expertise available from some of the region’s most senior legal practitioners, as well as the skills of those who have moved here from larger corporate environments.

As a result, we provide clients with a comprehensive range of legal services right here in the Wairarapa. We can provide you with legal assistance whether you are an individual or a company, with everything from setting up a Will to selling your farming business. 

Region: Wairarapa

Phone: 06 370 0000

Greg Kelly Law Ltd

Greg Kelly Law Limited is a boutique Wellington law firm specialising in trust and elder law. Our practice areas are wills, estates and trusts.

We act for private and institutional clients establishing and administering trusts, wills and estates. We also provide quality advice to legal and accounting firms in New Zealand and overseas. In particular, we can assist with legal opinions, obtaining and resealing probate, and estate and trust litigation.

Region: Wellington

Phone: 04 499 5193

Hannan & Seddon

The Law Firm of Hannan & Seddon dates back to September 1867.

The firm's offices were in Werita Street from 1867 until 1982 when the firm moved to Tarapuhi Street and then to its current spacious premises at 61 Guinness Street in 1998.

The name Hannan comes from Mr Michael Hannan whose son John Hannan (Jack) joined the firm in 1908. Jack Hannan remained in partnership until he passed away in 1974 at the age of 90!

The name Seddon comes from Mr T E Y Seddon (son of Premier Richard John Seddon from Kumara) who joined the firm in the 1920's. The other prominent Solicitor at Hannan & Seddon was Cyril McGinley who joined the firm in the late 1920’s and retired as a Consultant in 1997 aged 87.

Currently we have two Partners within our firm. Tony Sullivan who has been with us for 29 years and Colin Smith, 26 years. The firm also has two long serving Legal Executives Elaine Knowles and Beverley Walsh.  

Region: West Coast

Phone: 03 768 4169

All the information published on this website, or in any article herein is true and accurate to the best of the authors' knowledge. Information on this site should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by NZ LAW Limited, or individual NZ LAW member firms for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on information published on this site. Views expressed in any article are the views of the authors individually and do not necessarily reflect the view of NZ LAW or their member firms. Information appearing on this site may only be reproduced with prior approval from NZ LAW Limited Head Office, and credit being given to the source. © NZ LAW Limited