For clients buying rural blocks in NSW it is very important to check a whole range of issues. Is the building certified, do the dams require approval, is the swimming pool approved, are there any noxious weeds notices, is there electricity to the block, who owns the transformer, is the septic system approved?
For blocks not on the town sewer system septic tanks deal with waste water. These systems are known as a system of on-site sewage management.
Without going into details, as we are not Plumbers, the system usually consists of buried tanks and either soak wells or leach drains/absorption trench. Most Councils require the system to be approved and checked on a regular basis.
Recently clients exchanged on a Contract with a special condition stating that the Seller would provide an on-site sewage management approval prior to completion. You would think that was pretty clear.
We received a certificate from the Council stating that the absorption trench had to be replaced. The Lawyers for the Seller tried to argue that the provision of the approval certificate (even although it raised an issue with the system) was enough to satisfy the requirement in the Contract.
We begged to differ.
We argued the special condition was clear that it required an approval without any restrictions. Additionally we quoted Latin.
The contra proferentem rule of interpretation requires that if there is any ambiguity in a clause then the clause is to be read against the party that drafted the clause. In this case the Lawyers for the Seller had drafted the clause so it should be read in the Buyers’ favour.
Surprise, surprise we reached agreement for the Seller to do the work at their expense and provide a clear approval certificate.
We know the Romans were good with plumbing but who would have thought that Latin would help us with a septic tank in NSW?
If you need assistance with a purchase in NSW please call the office on 02 6162 3003 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss.
This is general information only and should not be regarded as legal advice.
Published 11 October 2017.