Having your business information compromised, lost or stolen by an external party or even a disgruntled employee can be awkward. Your clients trust you with their information and you need to take all reasonable measures to protect it. But when the worst happens, what should you do? Should you avoid losing your clients’ confidence and attempt to keep it quiet?
New changes to the Privacy Act, referred to as the ‘Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) Scheme’ commenced on Thursday 22nd February 2018 and now means this decision is easy for certain businesses to whom the changes apply.
If you’re party to a commercial lease that is coming to an end, whether you’re a landlord or tenant, it’s important that you be aware of any ‘make good’ obligations that are part of the lease.
If your lease has a make good clause, it’s important that you understand your obligations, whether it is limited to leaving the premises in good repair, or reinstating to a specific condition, and whether you can avoid the obligation by paying a sum of money, which can provide both landlord and tenant with flexibility. If a lease specifies that the condition of the premises in question ought to be reinstated, or made good, it is probably the case that you will need to comply.
Even in these circumstances, you may not be liable for the total cost if there isn’t a reduction in value of the premises. This is because pursuant to common law, the landlord is only entitled to recover any consequential reduction in value from failing to undertake the reinstatement.
Additionally, in Queensland, section 112 (1) of the Property Law Act 1974 provides that, where a lease requires a premises to be left in good repair at the end of a lease, any recovery is limited to the reduction in value of the premises.
It is especially important to make note and take photos of the condition of the premises at the start of the lease in these circumstances so that all parties can be satisfied of the initial condition, whether a tenant is or isn’t required to make good, it remains important.
The number one tip and consideration is to carefully negotiate the relevant make good requirements at the time of negotiating the lease. Parties are often so excited and focussed on the commencement of the lease, that they omit to take into consideration what the ‘end’ will look like, or they categorise it as a future concern. But when the time comes, if you are required to make good pursuant to the lease, it could impose a number of unintentional onerous conditions on you.
If you’re unsure whether you need to comply with any ‘make good’ conditions that may be in your lease, or want assistance to negotiate reasonably terms at the time of construction of the lease, the team at Enterprise Legal can help you determine the best course of action for you. For the best outcome, call us early in the process:
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The term, ‘non-refundable deposit’ is often used by business owners, but just because a deposit is referred to as ‘non-refundable’ does not mean that it actually is. Conversely, as a business owner, a deposit can be non-refundable if certain criteria are met.
Business owners need to be careful in how they charge a non-refundable deposit to ensure that it meets the relevant criteria. Non-refundable deposits are intended to protect a business in circumstances of sudden cancellation and to compensate the business for the time, effort and money expended up to that point. Therefore, it is crucial for a business to ensure that the non-refundable deposit that they charge in these circumstances is reasonable and proportionate with reference to protecting their legitimate business interests and is not excessive or used as a ‘penalty’ against a customer or client. What will be considered reasonable and proportionate will depend on the specific circumstances and will be different on a case-by-case basis.
Not only does a business need to ensure that a non-refundable deposit is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances, but they must also ensure they disclose all relevant information regarding the non-refundable deposit to their customers or clients. It is crucial for a business to disclose the terms of the non-refundable deposit in the correct way otherwise they may be seen to be engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct, which is against the law.
At a minimum, the business must disclose the terms of a non-refundable deposit in a Terms and Conditions document (or similar) which is provided to the customer or client at the time of, or prior to, engaging them.
Even better, the business should also seek to obtain an acknowledgement from the client or customer that the non-refundable deposit is reasonable and proportionate in protecting the business’ legitimate business interests. Again, this can be incorporated into the Terms and Conditions document being used by the business. You can also reiterate this to the client or customer when you request the payment of the deposit from them. Transparency is key!
But how does it work in real life?
By way of an example – let’s say you are a photographer who charges $300 for a photo shoot, with a non-refundable deposit of $100 payable prior to confirming the booking. Your Terms and Conditions (which your client signed and returned prior to engaging you) stats that the deposit is non-refundable and outlines that it is calculated with reference to the actual costs that your business incurs. Your client cancels the booking two days before the shoot. They allege that your business cannot retain the non-refundable deposit. In these circumstances, whether you can retain the deposit would depend on (as a minimum):
Without knowing any further information, on the above facts alone, it would appear that the deposit wouldbe non-refundable, as the document requirements appear to have been met and $100 may likely be considered to be a reasonable and proportionate amount.
What happens if a business fails to disclose the terms of the non-refundable deposit or doesn’t take the time to ensure they are charging a reasonable and proportionate amount? The customer or client may be entitled to get that deposit back and the business will not be entitled to be compensated for the loss they have suffered for the time, effort and costs incurred up until that point in time.
If you are a business owner who wants to charge non-refundable deposits, then you should obtain advice from a specialist business lawyer regarding the drafting of your Terms and Conditions and an assessment of the reasonableness of the amount that you want to charge. Unfortunately, this is another circumstance where you cannot use terms that you have sourced from Google, as they are not customised to your business, which will affect the likelihood of the enforceability of the provisions.
Obviously one of the biggest areas of uncertainty regarding the impacts of COVID-19 is on staff. Our expert Employment Law Team has put together the following overview, regarding standing-down employees and making employees redundant as a result of the current pandemic.
Pursuant to sections 524 and 525 of the Fair Work Act, employers can stand employees down without pay during a period in which the employee cannot usefully be employed because of:
During a legitimate stand down period, employees do not need to be paid but they will accrue leave in the usual way.
Whether a particular employee can be usefully employed is a question of fact to be determined having regard to the circumstances that face the individual employer and the specific employee. “Usefully employed” has not been defined, but Courts have in the past determined that if an employer is able to obtain some benefit or value for work that could be performed by the employee, then the stand down provisions will not apply.
For example, let’s say a local take away shop has to ‘shut its doors’ due to a government lock-down proclamation, then it may be reasonable to stand the front-line employees down without pay, but employees who do accounts, bookkeeping, marketing and alike may not be eligible to be stood down because there may still exist an opportunity for them to be ‘usefully employed’.
Awards, Enterprise Bargaining Agreements and Employment Agreements could alter the statutory position above, so EL always cautions clients against taking an action as drastic as stand down without pay until considered legal advice tailored to that client’s business and the specific employee(s) have been obtained.
Because of the significant impacts stand down without pay can have on employees, EL would treat such a step with extreme caution. Fair Work guides at the moment are saying that ‘best practice’ would be to discuss different options with each employee, and consider letting employees take leave on the basis of paid leave such as sick, annual, long-service etc. where available, or to allow them to work from home where possible.
However, EL recognises that sometimes when there is a stoppage of work, standing employees down without pay may be the only option available to our clients, and in those circumstances we encourage clients to contact us for a tailored, short-form advice from $1,350.00 (including GST).
Some EL clients may see their business take such a downturn that they need to consider making employee(s) positions redundant.
Essentially, a redundancy could be a potential strategy for employers where an employee’s position is no longer required by the employer due to restructure or operational changes in the employer’s business, which renders the position unnecessary. The work or role must no longer be required to be performed by any employee.
The Fair Work Act has strict requirements that employers must meet prior to qualifying for the redundancy provisions, and a relevant Employment Agreement, Award or Enterprise Bargaining Agreement may create complimentary and/or additional onerous obligations on employers in this regard.
Given the current climate, EL’s advice is to approach any redundancy decision with caution, and always ensure you have sought tailored legal advice so as to minimise any risk or unnecessary exposure to your business.
Our expert Employment Law team can also assist your business by developing a range of customised and appropriate policies and documents – please contact us to obtain a fixed fee quote for these services. In the interim, our team has prepared a generic Coronavirus Policy for your free download and use, to ensure that your business is on the front-foot.
The application of the existing law to the current situation is rapidly-developing, so we encourage all clients to ensure they regularly check our platforms for updates or to contact us directly with any concerns that they have.
Let’s be honest – legal entities and business structures can sound like a pretty dry and complicated topic. We can’t really sugar coat that, but we can tell you that if it’s not something that is addressed and set up to suit your business, you could be missing out on some very important advantages, and exposing your business and your assets to more risk than is necessary. Stick with us on this topic – it can be the difference between a business that thrives and a business that struggles.
As a threshold issue, if you don’t know exactly what your current entity structure is, then that’s ok (it’s not easy, and it’s not necessarily a ‘water cooler’ kind of topic), but this article is definitely for you and you should contact our expert Business Law Team so that we can help you identify it.
This three most common entity structures we encounter at EL are:
This is effectively the ‘starting point’ for many businesses. A sole trader is a single person who is carrying on a business under an ABN. An individual is of course capable of suing and being sued. In order to change the business structure, a sole trader must ‘transfer’ the business to another entity, which can be costly and will require payment of transfer duty based on the value of the transfer.
Income Distribution: all income of the business is distributed to the individual, which is to be declared in conjunction with any other income that individual earns. This is typically not an issue in the initial phase of a business while profit is building, but can be problematic if the individual is already paying a high rate of tax, as all profit earned by the business is also taxed at that rate.
Risk Profile: all assets owned by the individual can be at risk in any claim against the business. For example, if a customer/client or employee of the business sues the business and is successful, the individual may be required to sell other personal assets in order to pay out the claim, or risk declaring bankruptcy if the value of those assets are not enough to pay the claim.
A company is a separate legal entity to the people/persons that control it. The company is capable of suing and being sued. The controlling persons can be easily changed from time to time, which allows flexibility for business owners wanting to sell or bring other business partners on board.
Income Distribution: companies have additional flexibility when it comes to distribution of income, as it is ultimately distributed to the ‘shareholders’, which could be the individuals who control the company, another entity controlled by those individuals (for example another company or trust), or another entity controlled by a third party (for example an investor who has contributed funds to the business but does not assist in the day-to-day running of it). However this flexibility is somewhat limited, as the income must be distributed in accordance with the percentage of shares held by the shareholders.
Risk Profile: the company can be sued, and all assets held by the company are at risk in any claim against the business. If the company does not hold enough assets to pay the claim, the company may be required to wind up. Except in limited circumstances, typically the assets of the individuals who control the company are safe from any claim, so at worst the business will fold, but the individuals will maintain any other personally-held assets.
A trust is again a separate legal entity to those persons/entities who control it. The trust is capable of suing and being sued, and the controlling persons can also be easily changed from time to time by amending the trustee.
Income Distribution: trusts also have greater flexibility to distribute income, as it is distributed to the ‘beneficiaries’ of the trust, which can be individuals, companies, other trusts etc. A trust can be set up as a ‘discretionary’ trust, which allows the trustee flexibility to distribute income to the beneficiaries in any proportion that they determine.
Risk Profile: the risk profile of trusts is similar to that of companies, in that a trust can sue and be sued, and all assets held by the trust are at risk in any claim against the business. If the trust does not hold enough assets to pay the claim, the trust may be required to wind up, but similar to companies the assets of the trustees and beneficiaries are safe from any claim. In this situation, the business would fold but the individuals will maintain any personally-held assets.
There are of course other entities that you might encounter (such as partnership, unit trusts, etc), but they are largely either ‘outdated’ or only used in very specific circumstances. That does change from time to time based on things such as legislation and market preferences, but for now the three structures we have mentioned above are the most common.
In any decision around appropriate entity structures, often the accounting and legal advice are the same, which makes a decision easy. However, sometimes that advice can be conflicting, and you might find that trading in a certain entity will give you the greatest tax and accounting advantages, but will expose you to greater legal risk.
The classic example of this is a start-up business – in that example, while income is on the lower end because the business is starting out and growing, you’re often better starting off as a sole trader and minimising your accounting and set-up costs. The trade-off here is that you carry additional risk because your personal assets are exposed in the event of any claim. Depending on the type of business you operate and the personal assets you hold, you might be happy to accept that risk in favour of gaining some tax and accounting advantages.
At Enterprise Legal, we understand the competing accounting and legal benefits and risks, and we like to work with your accountant to discuss the best structure for you, both now and in the future. This way, you are armed with the knowledge from both sides and can make an informed decision.
At Enterprise Legal, we offer a free Business Health Check, in which we arrange a time to meet with you in-person or by phone/Zoom to assess your business needs. In addition to assessing other legal needs, this includes an in-depth analysis of your existing entity structure, and a discussion with you around other options, and the steps involved to change your structure.
We work with your accountant and other financial advisors to give you all the information, and discuss the best way to move forward. We can even create your new entity, amend your existing structure, or draft supporting entity documents to support your entity structure (such as company constitutions, association rules, shareholder’s agreements etc).
If you have any concerns or questions about your existing entity structure for your business, contact our expert Business Law team today:
☎️ | (07) 4646 2672✉️ | Submit an Online Request
Disclaimer: because we are #lawyers, we have to say that the advice in this article is generic in nature and not intended to apply to everyone’s personal circumstances. Please contact our EL Business Team, as well as your accountant, for customised advice regarding your business structuring.
It is difficult to know what has spread more prevalently over the last two weeks – COVID-19 itself or the vast, vast amounts of information, misinformation, tips, tricks, commentary, opinions, guidance etc. regarding COVID-19! Like all things at EL, we don’t seek to ‘add to the noise’ by replicating some of the great content that has already been published, but instead, our focus is on assisting business owners to implement practical, easily-adoptable strategies to help lower the immediate impact of the Corona-situation on their business.
So, you own or manage a business? Read on to find out what you can do…
Obviously one of the biggest areas of uncertainty regarding the impacts of COVID-19 is on staff. Our expert Employment Law Team has put together the following overview here, regarding standing-down employees and making employees redundant as a result of the current pandemic.
Of course, it is imperative for businesses to understand that the application of the current law to their employees can significantly differ on a case-by-case basis, so be very wary of adopting generic advice. Our Employment Team is across this topic and can provide properly-considered, tailored advice to ensure your specific business is covered.
We can also assist by developing a range of customised and appropriate policies and documents – please contact us to obtain a fixed fee quote for these services. In the interim, our team has prepared a generic Coronavirus Policy for your free download and use, to ensure that your business is on the front-foot.
The application of the existing law to the current situation is rapidly-developing, so we encourage all clients to ensure they regularly check our platforms for updates.
Brick and mortar stores are already suffering, with people (rightly) avoiding unnecessary trips to the shops. If you run a business with a shopfront, we strongly recommend that you engage us ASAP to commence negotiations with your landlord regarding potential rent reductions, delayed rent payments or adopting other mitigation strategies. There are plenty of commercial proposals that can be put to landlords during this time and reaching early agreement on these matters will assist businesses to survive and landlords to keep their shops tenanted. The terms of your lease may also offer some assistance at this time.
Face-to-face service-based businesses will unfortunately suffer hardest from COVID-19, particularly those in the wedding, events and conferences sector. Business operators and customers alike are shortly going to have to make some tough decisions about cancelling contracts and the implications around refunds and re-bookings will be important. Contact EL ASAP so that we can advise you on your legal obligations in this regard and provide you with practical, commercial suggestions for ensuring the long-term survival of your business.
The EL team is of the view that businesses need to be careful not to assume that they can ‘simply weather the storm’ of Corona, by holding tight for a few months.. The reality is that no-one really knows the length of the economic disruption that Covid-19 will cause, so our advice is for all businesses to stop and consider how they can innovate within their business during this time. Already, there are plenty of businesses leading the charge in this regard, with home delivery, new product development (hello family roll – Google it if you haven’t come across it yet!) and new delivery methods being adopted by small business in an effort to leverage opportunity from an otherwise difficult situation. There has never been a better time to evaluate your businesses’ strengths and weaknesses and pivot so that it is heading in the right direction!
Unless you are a doctor or a scientist, the number one way that you can help society at this time is to be a socially-responsible human being, who adopts and promotes common sense at all times! This extends to making sensible, balanced decisions for the ongoing viability of your business and not ‘sticking your head in the sand’ about the situation.
The Enterprise Legal team are not your average lawyers – we are able to assist you with navigating this challenging time for your business, by bringing our uniquely commercial approach to the legalities of the situation! Call our team today.
In response to the current Coronavirus pandemic and the impact that it has had on businesses, the Federal Government recently introduced temporary measures that will assist in relieving companies and their Directors in these times of financial difficulty. It is no secret that impending insolvency and/or bankruptcy is currently a very real risk for many Australian businesses and as any Director will know (or should know!) the implications of trading insolvent can be significant.
The intention of the relief being provided by the Government at this time is consistent with the overall theme of the relief being provided to all businesses and that is, to keep them trading while we all navigate these rapidly changing and challenging times by:
The relief measures that were passed by Parliament in late March will be in place for the next six months and include:
Both the threshold amounts for statutory demands and bankruptcy notices have been increased significantly, to $20,000, and the time to respond has been increased to six months. What this means is that the Government has recognized that companies and individuals alike may very well incur more debt while their businesses are affected during this time and will likely require more time to ‘get back on track’ and be in a position to pay their creditors. It seeks to ensure that companies and individuals are able to ‘stay afloat’ for as long as possible, rather than having to enter voluntary liquidation or declare bankruptcy.
These measures will no doubt provide some comfort for businesses who are concerned about outstanding debts owed to their creditors.
In the event that a company does find that the impacts of the pandemic have effected their business to a point where they are still struggling to pay their debts, the Directors of that company can rest assured that they may be relieved of any personal liability associated with insolvent trading that occurs over the next six months. It is extremely important for Directors to understand that this relief only applies to insolvent trading that has occurred during the ordinary course of the company’s business, it does not apply to cases of dishonesty or fraud (which will still be subject to criminal penalties). Directors must continue to ensure that they are still taking active steps to deal with financial stress and consider options for ‘staying afloat’, but are simply being given some breathing room to do so.
Regardless of the relief being provided by the Government, it remains as important as ever for business owners to consider how they might diversify their businesses to keep income coming in and keep the debts owed to creditors down. For that reason, we encourage businesses to seek professional advice wherever they can these matters and how they might take advantage of the other forms of relief being provided by the Government. Every business’ situation will be different, especially given the current climate, and seeking assistance earlier rather than later could make all the difference to how a business comes out of this on the other side.
As a small business our self, Enterprise Legal is extremely passionate about assisting businesses wherever we can in these difficult times and have already identified ways in which we can do so. To that end, we have prepared a number of free ‘Coronavirus Resources’ for businesses which are available via our website.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us to chat about how your business has been effected by the pandemic and how we might be able to assist you to survive and thrive!
On 20 January 2022, the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) released new versions of the Contract for Houses and Residential Land (17th edition) and the Contract for Residential Lots in a Community Titles Scheme (13th edition).
The latest editions contain many amendments, but Enterprise Legal considers the following six changes to be the most significant:
Both Contracts now allow for a Seller to provide a No Pool Compliance Certificate to the Buyer prior to the Contract being signed and in doing so, there is no other requirement from the Seller in relation to the pool on the land. The Buyer will no longer have a termination right if the pool is not compliant at Settlement.
If however, the Seller does not disclose that there is not a Pool Compliance Certificate, prior to entering into the Contract, then the Seller will be required to obtain one prior to Settlement, at the Seller’s cost. If they fail to do so, the Buyer will have a right to terminate.
From 1 January 2022, dwellings and residential units offered for sale must have smoke alarms installed that comply with the current requirements – these requirements have been getting ‘phased in’ for a number of years now. The new versions of the Contracts specify that should a Seller fail to comply with these requirements prior to Settlement, the Buyer will be entitled to a deduction at Settlement equal to 0.15% of the Purchase Price. Sellers and real estate agents should be aware of this and consider whether it is more appropriate to include a Special Condition fixing this deduction at an amount that has bearing on the actual cost of making the residence compliant.
The new contract editions require Sellers to warrant, as at the Contract Date, they have not received any communication from an authority that may lead to the issue of a show cause notice, enforcement notice or notice to do work. This requirement is a lot broader than previous, which only required a Seller to make a disclosure if an actual notice had been issued. In reality, authorities such as Councils and service providers usually correspond with owners prior to issuing formal notices and this new requirement put the onus on Sellers to disclose any such correspondence.
Buyers now have a termination right is there is infrastructure that is unrelated to the delivery of services to the property that passes through the property and such service is not protected by a registered easement, BMS or statutory authority.
Buyers will also have a termination right if any service to the property passes through another property and such service is not protected by a registered easement, BMS or statutory authority.
This means that it is very important for Sellers to complete a ‘Dial Before You Dig’ or similar search prior to entering into the Contract, so that they are aware of the location of all services which may need to be disclosed.
This new concept allows either party to unilaterally extend Settlement by up to 5 Business Days after the Scheduled Settlement Date specified in the Contract.
This mechanism only applies to Settlement and does not apply to other conditions like the Finance or Building and Pest Condition.
The standard condition has been amended so that is a Seller does not advise the specific location for Settlement (e.g the specific law firm) at least 2 Business Days before the Settlement Date, Settlement will be required to take place at the Titles Office closest to where the land is located. Again, given the erroneous results this condition could result in, we recommend including a Special Condition to amend it.
There has been some significant changes made in the latest REIQ Contract updates for residential dwellings and units and it is important that parties understand what these mean and include appropriate Special Conditions to amend the Special Condition if required.
Firm Director, Peta Gray and Lead Conveyancer, Adrianna Williamson recently presented a Webinar regarding these changes and recommendations for dealing with those changes.
If you would like to receive a copy of the Webinar recording, or have any further questions about the changes and what that could mean for you, please contact our conveyancing team
☎️ | (07) 4646 2621✉️ |
Our team has also made a range of Special Conditions, including the ones referred to in this article, available for your use via the links below:
REIQ Contract for Houses & Residential Land (17th edition)
REIQ Contract for Residential Lots in a Community Titles Scheme (13th edition)
If your business provides services, then the answer is YES!
A Services Agreement is an essential document for every service-based business! If you’re just starting out, you should put a Services Agreement at the top of your ‘legal document priority list’ (which is definitely a list everyone has). For existing business owners, whether you’ve been going ok without one or rolling out some stock-standard agreement you found from a Google search, you should put it back on your legal document priority list, as it only becomes more important as your business grows.
A tailored, well-drafted Services Agreement both protects your business (for example, in the event that a customer or client makes a claim for defective services) and clearly deals with important business policies such as cancellations, payment timing and methods, insurance etc.
A Services Agreement should also be customised for your specific business and the services you provide, because one size does not fit all when it comes to these kinds of agreements. From matters such as specific legislation that might apply to the industry (eg. NDIS, medical services, specific privacy law requirements), how much notice must be given for a cancellation, to the basic style and tone of the document, different businesses will have different requirements, so it is important that your Services Agreement reflects what your business needs. This is where you can get unstuck if you ‘take inspiration from’ (eg. copy) another business’ Services Agreement (you might be copying something that isn’t actually very good) or buy a generic online document! For example, if you provide support services for NDIS participants, then grabbing a Services Agreement from the website of your local gym is probably not going to be suitable for your business.
Whether you’re starting a new business or have been operating for a while and either don’t have a Services Agreement or you would like a second opinion on your current Services Agreement, the expert Business Law Team at Enterprise Legal can help. At Enterprise Legal, we take the time to learn about your business before preparing your Services Agreement.
Contact the Business Law Team today or book in for your Free Business Health Check:
☎️ | (07) 4646 2621✉️ | Submit an Online Request