commercial litigation Tag

Did you use the "out of office assistant" to notify people that you were away during the Christmas Break?  Ironically that automatic reply may be proof that you received an email that, you did not in fact receive.  Proof of receipt by the receiving system may be enough to show receipt by you.  We are governed by both the contracts we sign but also by contract law.  The contract does not stand by itself in a vacuum.   Contract Law affects all of our dealings with each other.  If you are entering into a contract of any kind you should see us first for a fixed fee quote.  Contact Riba Business Lawyers The problems that we can experience with email notices are an example. There are legal problems associated with using email to make contracts and futher problems are associated with issuing notices by email under a contract.  Those problems relate to
  1. whether an email notice is a valid written notice and,
  2. the timing of receipt by the intended recipient. Is the email received when it is received to, the server, the computer or when the recipient reads it?  Many contracts specify required time frames. If an email is used then it is essential that the time of receipt can be identified.

Almost every commercial lease will provide that before a lease can be assigned, the consent of the landlord must be obtained.   If  you have commercial premises associated with your business there are some very good reasons to make sure that the assignment of the lease is properly handled. We recently acted for a commercial tenant.  This client came to us with a big problem, which had only become obvious to them a year after the date of the sale of their business. The commercial tenant had sold their business a year earlier and had assigned the lease of the business premises to the buyer.  Things did not go smoothly. The landlord set out the conditions upon which consent would be given.

Going to court is expensive.  It is so expensive that many commercially minded people would rather pay someone money that is not owed, or walk away from money that is owing, just to avoid legal costs. While some business people take this practical approach, others want to stand up for the principle of the matter.  Having principles can however be very expensive. It is true that because legal costs are high, even a win may feel like a loss.  Legal costs are sometime higher than the value of the dispute. Lawyers have a saying that "costs follow the event".  In other words, normally the winner of legal proceedings will receive an order that their costs should be paid, by the losing party.  We mention some exceptions below. Here we should pause to think about what this means:

If your Tenant has failed to pay rent or is in breach of some other essential term of the Lease, you may decide that terminating the Lease and searching for a new Tenant is the best way for you to limit your losses.   It may be, for instance, that the tenant is impecunious.

Before you will be able to “change the locks” and re-enter your property, Section 124(1) of the Property Law Act provides that you must first serve on your Tenant a notice which states the breach complained of and what the Tenant has to do to remedy the breach.

It is in your best interests that any breach notice is issued correctly the first time.  You must ensure that the breach notice is factually accurate and complies with the technical requirements imposed by law.

Providing a defective notice can be costly.

Firstly, a defective notice may give the Tenant the ability to have the notice set aside. This would force you to re-issue the notice thus delaying your efforts to terminate the Lease. This may allow the Tenant to continue to occupy the Premises while in breach until such time as the notice is re-issued correctly.

A Caveat is a notice that a person can give to the registrar of  titles.  It will generally stop anyone else registering any interest on a title to land.

So why would someone want to stop another person from registering an interest on a title.  Let me tell you about a case that I was involved with, it illustrates better than any explanation why caveats are so important. About 10 years ago I acted for a farmer.  He lived on his Macadamia nut farm with his wife. He had been given the farm by his father. His daughter had found herself in some trouble and decided that she needed money.   In order to get that money she went to a private lender.  As you know lenders don't lend money unless they receive  a mortgage in return.  The mortgage is their assurance that they will be paid.  A mortgage is a right given to a lender to sell a property to pay a loan.   The daughter had no house to mortgage. What could she do?

One of the problems with our modern legal and business system is that it is exploited by those who know how to exploit it.  Yet, for others who genuinely need the protection, that these systems were designed to provide, the red tap and excessive cost, makes help impossible to obtain.

We see this commonly in disputes relating to unpaid debts and money owed due to breach of contract.  A person who owes money, may well know that it is often not worthwhile for a creditor to pursue payment.  This is because the legal cost of chasing payment is too great.  A debtor who believes that a creditor will not chase payment is unfortunately less likely to pay.

I have included some links at the end of this article that may assist anyone who is owed money.

Fortunately since December 2009 QCAT (Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal) has

Section 51 AE of the Competition and Consumer Act (previously the Trade Practices Act) provides for industry codes such as the Franchising Code.

A breach of the Code constitutes a breach of the Competition and Consumer Act. Section 51 AD of the Competition and Consumer Act provides that "a corporation must not, in trade or commerce, contravene an applicable industry code" In a case known as Ketchell's case the court was asked to look at the consequences of a failure to breach the code. The facts of the case put simply are that the franchisor brought an action to recover money that the franchisee said was owning under the franchise agreement.

Unless you have seen first hand, the way that legal proceedings can be built or destroyed, by a written note relating to a matter in issue, then you cannot appreciate how much lawyers and the court system love bits of paper.  Written notes on  bits of paper can literally determine the outcome of legal proceedings.

The absence of written notes can cause lawyers on both sides of an argument to work for days preparing affidavit material, each trying to recount, with limited success what was said.  In many cases the factual debate is often won by the person with the best supporting paper.

"That contract's not worth the paper its written on".  I understand that this is how people may feel, when they have  taken the time to make a contract, yet a dispute arises anyway.  Nevertheless this statement is rarely true, where a contract is properly drafted.

The point of a contract is to provide the parties to the contract, with a starting point, in case there is a  disagreement.  It is not the case that a White Knight will ride in, to put things right, when the terms of the contract are broken.  If the agreement is properly drafted there will be a good number of matters on which it is more difficult to have an argument.  Yet there will remain scope for an argument and it is up to you to enforce your rights.  You will see below there are things that you can do to make a dispute less likely.