Housing contracts advice for seniors

Whether building, buying, renting, moving to a retirement village, purchasing services or refinancing, you are likely to be entering into a legal contract between yourself and another party.

The following information is also available as part of the Seniors housing guide - Contracts and agreements fact sheet.

Some of these contracts may have terms that are agreed verbally. However, for the purchase and sale of real estate, retirement villages and park homes, by law contracts must be in writing. It is a good idea to always try and have any contract you enter into – for a good or service - in writing. Verbal contracts are very difficult to prove if things go wrong.

Contracts can be thought of as setting the rules between you and another party or parties. The contract rules (called terms or conditions) set out what each party will do for the other, the time by which such actions will be done and what happens if any party fails to play by the rules.

The contract should set out all the rules so there is no uncertainty. The law treats contracts seriously and you should be very careful before entering into a contract. If you sign a contract, you are agreeing to abide by the terms set out in the contract. This will be enforceable through the courts. A claim that you did not understand certain clauses in the contract will not usually release you from the responsibility to abide by the terms agreed to in them.

For many contracts the law in Western Australia does not require the contract to contain a cooling off period. If the contract does not include a cooling off period, you cannot get out of a contract because you have changed your mind.

Contract checklist

  • Make sure all things that are important to you are clearly included in the contract.
  • Ensure you can afford any payments required by the contract, not just now but in the future.
  • Take as much time as you need to read and understand a contract– don’t be rushed! Before signing anything, ask for a copy of the contract to take away with you to read carefully and to show to a friend or adviser.
  • Consult a lawyer when adding your own terms to a contract so they are clear and enforceable.
  • Cross out and initial any terms in a contract you want to delete or change and ask the other party to initial the changes and deletions as well.
  • Don’t use liquid paper on a contract.
  • Don’t sign a blank contract or allow details to be filled in later. Draw a line through any blank spaces which do not need to be filled in.
  • Remember every person who is a party to the contract is usually responsible for making sure the terms of the contract are followed.
  • If buying, make sure the person(s) you are buying the property from is/are legally entitled to sell the property.
  • Ask for a copy of any contract you sign, you are entitled to a copy.

More information on Contracts

  • Legal Aid Information Line 1300 65 05 79

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