Happy New Year folks! A new year brings with it a fresh start and renewed energy. You may have big plans for the year ahead, such as buying a home, travel or a career change.
Now is a timely opportunity to remind ourselves of some important legal tips before embarking on major life decisions.
Get it in writing. Never rely on what someone tells you: insist on receiving it in writing (via email is fine). That way, you have evidence in case they refuse to fully honour their commitment or deny ever making it. If you pay a deposit, always get a receipt signed by the seller. Note, however, that some types of contracts (such as for the purchase of real estate) will specifically say you can’t rely on anything but the contract itself. If you’re buying a property, make sure the contract includes all the details of your agreement. Any handwritten changes or stapled pages should be initialled by all parties, on all copies of the contract.
Think before you post it on social media. Perhaps the most career limiting thing you can do (besides a criminal conviction) is to post something foolish on social media. Think carefully before you do anything online, including something as simple of ‘liking’ a post. Once it’s online, assume it’s there forever. Even if you delete it, there are web services that archive everything, and there will always be someone who’s managed to screenshot that tweet you regretted. Defamation and consumer laws apply online, so don’t tell fibs or be misleading and deceptive. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face on a public street, don’t post in on social media.
Know your rights and do your research. Don’t take anything on face value. Before buying a car, check its crash and finance history through your roads authority. Before booking accommodation overseas, independently verify that it’s not a scam. Every product sold in Australia is subject to consumer laws. You have automatic rights regarding the replacement or repair of faulty goods and services. There are various Ombudsmen you can write to if you have a complaint against service providers, including phones, electricity, banking and public transport. Be vigilant about your legal rights and don’t be afraid to insist on them.
Always have insurance. Otherwise you risk your new venture ending in disaster. Consider paid insurance as an investment, but regularly review it to ensure you’re receiving the best value. Seek a second opinion from a reputable insurance broker. Be careful not to underinsure (for instance, homes in bushfire prone areas may cost more to rebuild than their current insured value). Consider taking advantage of income protection insurance offered by your superannuation fund, so you can keep paying your mortgage if you are off work due to injury. If you’re running a business from home, don’t rely on your home insurance policy to cover you for a business-related claim – check with your insurer first.
Note: the above is general information and should not be considered as legal advice.
Kate Ashmor runs her own law firm, Ashmor Legal, focusing on conveyancing, wills, power of attorney and trademarks. When she's not chasing a pre-schooler, speaking at a conference or tweeting, she serves as Chair of Caulfield Park Bendigo Bank. She's a past president of Australian Women Lawyers and Women's Agenda's chief legal columnist.
Twitter: @KateAshmorWebsite: www.ashmorlegal.com.au/