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‘Cooling off’ rules across Australia for buyers during the coronavirus pandemic

Most states and territories (the exception being WA and Tasmania) have cooling of periods for private treaty transactions, ranging from two to 10 business days. It’s there as a consumer safeguard against pressurised selling. It doesn’t apply for auctions and often for transactions agreed on auction day or shortly before or after (rules vary across jurisdictions, see table). For auctions, the exception to cooling off is to protect confidence in the auction process. Few vendors would pursue the option if there was a high risk that the associated costs could be wasted by a purchaser blithely pulling out afterwards.

The move to online auctions has revealed a potential weakness in the current system, at least in Victoria, my home state. Agents have been scheduling online auctions for the usual four-week campaigns only to subsequently realise that there are parties willing to buy within a few days of the property listing. Concluding that it is in their client’s interest to expedite a sale rather than risk losing buyers should there be a deterioration in conditions, negotiations are started. Purchases in these circumstances would have a cooling off period in most parts of Australia.

But in Victoria, the cooling off rule doesn’t apply if the purchase is within a three-day window before or after the auction. Craftily, some agents in Victoria are bringing forward the online auction date to sit notionally within three days of these negotiations (despite having no intention to have the auction), resulting in no cooling off period. I believe that is not within the spirit of the rules and needs looking at. R Wakelin

Change of mind - colling off periods

Jurisdiction 

Private treaty 

Auction purchases  

ACT 

5 days 

If you’re not a registered bidder and you make an offer after property is passed in. For registered bidders, there is cooling off when offer is made after day of auction 

NSW 

5 days (10 days for off the plan) 

Only if offer is made after auction day when a property is passed in

NT 

4 days 

No cooling off if bought at auction 

Qld 

5 days 

Only if you’re not a registered bidder and you make an offer after property is passed in. For registered bidders, there is cooling off if offer is made two or more days after auction 

SA 

2 days 

Only if offer for a passed in property is made after auction day 

TAS 

No cooling off 

No cooling off if bought at auction 

Vic 

3 days 

Only if offer is made more than three days before the auction or three days after property is passed in

WA 

No cooling off 

No cooling off if bought at auction