Does the vendor have to clean the property before settlement? Unfortunately not. However, this is one of the most common complaints I receive. It can come as a shock to a purchaser when they make incorrect assumptions about the property they’ve just bought and already consider theirs. Some of the most regular complaints are not protected by the contract. I’ve addressed a few of the common ones here.
Access before settlement
Once you pay the deposit and sign the contract, it’s only normal to feel a right of ownership over the property. However, it is not yours until settlement. This may seem obvious, but I often get requests from purchasers to access the property before settlement. They may wish to measure, get quotes, show it to prospective tenants, do repairs, move in their stuff or even themselves.
Unfortunately, until you are handed the keys after settlement, you do not have a right to do these things. If you really need access, you should ask the vendor before signing the contract and get their agreement in writing. Otherwise, you will be at the whim of their cooperation. The vendor may grant you a licence agreement for access prior to settlement if the property is vacant. However, they usually demand reasonable rent, and you will start paying for rates and insurance from occupation. In particular, it is unlikely for a vendor to agree that you do any structural alterations or renovations before settlement.
Fixing property damage and broken goods
The vendor must deliver the property in the same condition as at the day of sale (subject to fair wear and tear). This means that you must check that everything is working before you sign the contract. If possible, test all appliances, water pressure, power points and light switches. You should also consider obtaining a building/pest inspection, and budget for repairs given the age and condition of the property.
You may negotiate a clause in the contract which requires all goods to be in working condition at settlement. However, the vendor is unlikely to agree to do any additional repairs or renovations. Also, if issues are not discovered before settlement, then it will be hard for you to enforce it afterwards.
Cleaning the property
Many purchasers are surprised to realise that the vendor is not required to clean the property before settlement. Unlike a tenant’s obligations under a lease, the vendor does not need to leave the property in a reasonably clean condition. Do not expect them to steam clean the carpets, or even remove the old paint tins from the garage.
Of course, this can be negotiated in the contract before signing. However, you are better off budgeting to clean the property yourself for the following reasons:
- There may be no opportunity for you to inspect the level of cleanliness prior to settlement. As the vendor doesn’t have to move out until settlement, they may not have cleaned up before your final inspection. There may simply be no time to for them to clean if they have a simultaneous settlement (i.e. buy/sell at the same time).
- After settlement, you will have very little recourse if they do not reach your expected level of cleanliness. Unlike a lease, there is no bond to retain for this purpose. It is very hard to claim compensation from a vendor after settlement.
Please get your conveyancer involved in your purchase before you sign the contract. We can advise you of these risks and help you to negotiate a favourable outcome.
Aliza Taubman is the Principal Solicitor at Prime Property Lawyers
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