McKillop Legal Blog

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Buying a property with others: Co-Ownership Agreements

Given the increasing cost of buying real estate, many potential purchasers are having to pool their resources to buy property together.

This can be good for many reasons as the costs can be shared and you may be able to own or live in better premises than you may otherwise be able to afford on your own, but there are risks.

Co-ownership often is a joyful experience at the beginning but often, disputes can arise such as each co-owner has differing views on the approach to be taken on various matters, from the important to the quite petty.

If you have bought, or are thinking of buying, a property with others, then you should really have a Co-Ownership Agreement in place.

Co-Ownership Agreements often cover the following maters (and others):

  • Ownership proportions
  • Amounts contributed for acquisition costs
  • How improvements to the property are made
  • Agreed valuation mechanism for exit purposes
  • Rights of first refusal / pre-emption
  • Parts of the property / premises either co-owner may have exclusive use of (and those for common use)
  • Contributions to expenses (insurance, rates, utilities etc)
  • Responsibilities for tasks like mowing, maintenance, upkeep etc
  • Dispute resolution procedures
  • Estate planning considerations (for example a couple’s interest may be held as joint tenants, rather than tenants in common).

Other articles of interest regarding this topic include:

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information on co-ownership of property and the benefits of Co-Ownership Agreements, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Liquidation

Liquidation is the process of winding up a company’s financial affairs and ultimately results in the existence of the company ending and being deregistered at ASIC.

An insolvent company can be wound up by the Court either by voluntary resolutions of the company’s directors and the company’s shareholders or by application by a creditor.

A solvent company can also be wound up through a members voluntary winding up if the company is no longer needed.

A Court will make an order for the winding up of a company if it can be shown that the company is:

(a)    actually insolvent – it cannot pay its debts as and when they fall due (even if the company has surplus assets but cannot convert them to cash them quickly); or

(b)    is deemed to be insolvent (such as through a Creditor’s Statutory Demand having been served but not complied with).

The Court can order winding up for other reasons also.

Unlike during a company’s administration, personal guarantees are unaffected by liquidation – they are personal arrangements.

Secured creditors are also unaffected by the process of liquidation.

In a liquidation, after sale of the company assets etc, the liquidator will distribute as dividends any surplus in accordance with the order of priority set out in s.556 of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).

A liquidation lasts for as long as it takes but ends on the company being struck off ASIC’s register or by Court order – either dissolving the company or staying or setting aside the winding up.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Deed of Company Arrangement

A Deed of Company Arrangement (DOCA) is a proposal put forward by stakeholders, usually the directors, whilst the company is in administration so as to give a return to creditors better than they may receive in a winding up.

Importantly, a DOCA avoids the need to place the company into liquidation and allows the company to continue to trade with control of the company ultimately going back to the directors.

DOCA arrangements are flexible in that they can provide for may forms of payment from a lump sum or a payment by instalments of a fixed amount of based on net profit.

A Deed of Company Arrangement and must be signed within 15 business days of the 2nd creditors meeting (unless this time is extended by the Court), otherwise the company must be placed into liquidation, with the administrator becoming the liquidator.

Prior to execution, a DOCA must be approved by at least 50% of creditors by number and in value of amounts owed. Once signed, DOCAs are binding agreements between the company and its creditors and the administrator is in control of the company.

If entered into, a DOCA subsists for as long as its terms provide, until the obligations in the DOCA have all been met or until Court order.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Voluntary Administration

Voluntary Administration (VA) is a process that enables insolvent companies to satisfy their debts. Once an administrator is appointed, the administrator can assist the company to trade its way into a healthier financial position with a view to either the company:

(a)    being placed back into the director’ control,

(b)    entering into a Deed of Company Arrangement (DOCA) or

(c)     being placed into liquidation.

Administration begins generally when the company directors (not the shareholders) resolve that the company is or is expected to become insolvent (but it can commence when a liquidator believes that that a proposed DOCA may give creditors a better return that liquidator or if a secured creditor has a right under their finance arrangements to appoint an administrator).

During a Voluntary Administration, the directors lose all control of the company and the administrator assumes sole responsibility the assets and affairs of the company.

There are 2 creditors meetings in a Voluntary Administration, the first within 8 business days of the administrator being appointed and the second, within 30 business days of that date. At this second meeting, the creditors determine the company’s fate – choosing either to enter into a DOCA if one is proposed or liquidation.

Secured creditors can exercise their security in a VA but must do so within 13 business days of the administration commencing. Unsecured creditors are unable to enforce their claims during the moratorium period that exists during the administration.

During the administration period, any guarantee of company debts cannot be enforced against a director etc.

VA ends on the entry into of a DOCA, if the creditors so resolve, if the company is placed into liquidation or if the Court orders it to end.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Forged cheques

Cheque use in Australia has dropped by 83% over the last 10 years and is dropping by around 20% per annum. Although the use of cheques in Australia is declining rapidly with the alternative (and quicker and easier) payment methods such as EFT, debit and credit cards, PayWave, ApplePay, Stripe etc, Australians still use around 60 million cheques per year, so it is important to know what duties you may owe to your bank in relation to forged cheques.

There are 2 principal duties owed by a customer to a paying bank in relation to cheques:

  1. a duty to take reasonable care when drawing cheques so as not to mislead the bank or facilitate a forgery; and
  2. a duty to notify the bank promptly after becoming aware of a forged cheque.

If a customer becomes aware of a forgery but takes no steps to inform the bank and the bank acts to its detriment in paying the cheque, then the customer cannot later deny that the cheque was genuine.

There is no obligation on a customer to examine bank statements to detect forgeries and notify the bank of discrepancies. The customer’s obligations are limited to the above duties. Subject to those duties, the bank bears liability for payment of a cheque drawn without the customer’s authority.

The relationship between a bank and its customers in relation to cheques is a contractual one and the above duties are terms implied into that contract but banks can insert provisions into their terms of service to place the burden of losses from forged cheques on their customers if they so choose, so check the T&Cs of your bank or building society.

Steps to help prevent or detect forged cheques

Not all cheque forgeries can be prevented however, to attempt to prevent forgeries:

  • check for watermarks, ‘void’ pantographs, microprinting or other security measures
  • check the cheque looks ‘authentic’ – high quality printing, paper, correct spelling, even spacing, no smudges
  • don’t pre-sign “blank” cheques or leave cheques partially completed
  • cross cheques or mark them as “not negotiable” or “account payee only” so they are unable to be cashed or negotiated and have to be paid to an account
  • insert the dollar amount in numbers as close as possible to the ‘$’ sign and cross out any blank space to attempt to prevent other numbers from being inserted
  • state the full amount in words without leaving any spaces between or after the words – cross out any blank space
  • promptly alert your bank or the police to any suspicious, unexpected or unauthorised account transactions (cheques cant be ‘stopped’ once presented).

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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What is the difference between Deeds and Agreements?

You may have noticed that some documents you have signed have been expressed to be a Deed and others as an Agreement (or a Contract). You may wonder – is there a difference?

At law, the essential ingredients to have a binding agreement are:

  • Offer – what is being sold and purchased
  • Consideration – the ‘price’ paid
  • Intention to be legally bound by the arrangement
  • Acceptance of the Offer

The main difference between a deed and an agreement is that there is no requirement for consideration for the deed to be binding. The fact that something is executed as a “deed” means that it is a most solemn promise that you mean and intend to do what you promise to do.

Obviously, contracts can be written or verbal, but a deed must be in writing.

Often the choice of executing as a deed is due to there possibly being no actual consideration passing or a difficulty in quantifying it (such as the mutual exchange of promises do do or refrain from doing something, rather than a payment of money).

Common examples of deeds include:

  • Deed of Guarantee
  • Deeds of Release & Indemnity
  • Deeds of Settlement
  • Trust Deeds or Superannuation Deeds
  • Confidentiality Deeds

Some documents must be in the form of or to take effect as a Deed to be valid, such as for the transfer of real property in NSW.

Signed, Sealed & Delivered

Traditionally, to be a valid deed, the arrangement had to be “signed, sealed and delivered” and therefore:

  • on paper or parchment,
  • signed by the parties and their seal applied; and
  • it had to be physically delivered to the other party,

however now, there is no requirement for a seal and the parties are presumed to have ‘delivered‘ it on execution.

It must also still be witnessed for individuals signing however in modern times, the law in NSW (since 22 November 2018) allows for electronic execution. Further, the Regulations made during the COVID-19 Pandemic were updated to allow remote witnessing by audio-visual link (although we always prefer “wet ink” signatures as the lowest risk option for execution of deeds).

Subject to the terms of the document (which may allow or prohibit it, and whether or not execution in counterparts is provided for), a deed may be binding on a party, irrespective of whether the other party or parties to the deed have also signed it.

As with all documents, the correct “attestation clause” should be used depending on whether the party is an individual, company, trustee or a partnership.

Also, limitation periods for enforcing obligations in deeds are longer than for agreements.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Merry Christmas from McKillop Legal

Our office will be closed from 4pm on 23 December 2021 and will re-open on Monday, 17 January 2022.

We wish our clients, referrers, friends and family a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year ahead in 2022.

Limitation periods

There are limitation periods that apply to various legal cause of action.

The effect of a limitation period in relation to a legal cause of action is that claims become time-barred, and therefore unable to proceed, where the relevant period of time has elapsed without a claim being brought through the relevant Court or Tribunal.

There is no “Statute of Limitations” in New South Wales as such but there is the Limitations Act 1969 (NSW) which has a default limitation period regime where there is no specific timeframe set out in the relevant Act (such as the Succession Act 2006 (NSW), Home Building Act 1989 (NSW), Defamation Act 2005 (NSW), Fair Trading Act 1987 (NSW), Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW) etc).

The Limitation Act (or the relevant specific Act) describe the types of legal actions and the limitation periods that apply to them such as the following civil claims:

Cause of action Limitation period
Contractual claims 6 years from the date on which the cause of action accrued
Negligence 6 years from the date on which the cause of action accrued
Family provision 12 months from date of death
Cause of action founded on a deed 12 years from the date on which the cause of action first accrues
Enforcing a judgment 12 years from the date on which the judgment first becomes enforceable
Defamation 1 year from date of publication
Unfair dismissal 21 days from the date of dismissal of employee

NOTE – this is a general guide only – you should get specific advice as to the limitation periods that apply to your specific circumstances

Different limitation periods apply to causes of action in different jurisdictions, such as the Commonwealth or those of each State and Territory. Limitation periods can also apply to some criminal matters but serious crimes generally do not have such limitation periods.

In some very limited circumstances, the relevant limitation period may be able to be extended.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information on litigation and dispute resolution, please contact McKillop Legal on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au 

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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Director Identification Number (DIN)

From 01 November 2021, all directors of Australian companies must obtain a Director Identification Number (DIN). This includes foreign directors of Australian companies or other Australian registered bodies who do not reside in Australia.

Directors must register for their DIN personally. You cannot ask any other person to register on your behalf, including your accountant or tax agent. It is free to apply.

The Australian Business Registry Services (ABRS) will maintain the DIN register.

A DIN is a 15 digit code unique to you. It will start with 036 (which is the 3-digit country code for Australia under International Standard ISO 3166) and have a further 11 digits plus one further ‘check’ digit for error detection.

Once you have a DIN, you have it for life, even if you are no longer a director, change your name or move.

ASIC will soon require directors to identify themselves by their DIN when registering a company or being added as a director.

DINs cannot be yet searched by the public, but they may become searchable in the future.

Why have DINs?

The key objectives of the DIN regime are to promote good corporate conduct by:

  • enabling tracking of directors and their relationships across companies
  • ensuring the corporate history of directors is easily accessible to regulators and external administrators
  • verifying the identity of directors to help reduce fraud, and
  • limiting opportunities for illegal activities like “phoenixing”

When do you need to get a DIN?

The timing of the need to register yourself for a DIN depends on when you became or intend to become a director:

Date you became a director (under Corporations Act) Deadline for obtaining a DIN
Before 01 November 2021 By 30 November 2022
Between 01 November 2021 and 04 April 2022 Within 28 days of appointment
On or after 5 April 2022 Prior to your appointment

ASIC is responsible for enforcing DIN offences set out in the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). It is a criminal offence if you do not apply on time, to apply for multiple DINs or misrepresent a DIN.

Who doesn’t need a DIN?

Registration for a DIN is not needed for:

  • a company secretary that is not also a director
  • a person acting as an external administrator of a company
  • a person running their business as a sole trader or partnership (as they don’t have a company structure)
  • an officer of an unincorporated association, cooperative or incorporated association established under State or Territory legislation, unless the organisation also has an Australian Registered Business Number or ARBN.

How do you get a DIN?

To register for a DIN, you will need to gather the necessary details to verify yourself (Tax File Number, passport, drivers license, Medicare card, PAYG payment summary, bank details, superannuation statement etc), register a “myGovID” account (note that this is different to a “myGov” account), and then apply for the DIN on the ABRS website.

Once you get a DIN, you should provide it to the company or companies of which you are currently a director and those you intend to become a director of (to the company secretary, another director or authorised agent of the company)

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to Corporations Act, directors duties or corporate governance issues or any business or commercial law matter, contact us on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your needs.

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