PEXA: Dispelling the myth from the facts


Melina addresses the elephant in the room dispelling the myth from the facts about PEXA and electronic settlements.


As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, two Victorians recently lost $1.25 million between them, due to a computer hack. Similar stories were aired on Nine News and news.com.au

Property Exchange Australia’s e-transfer system is already mandatory for some transfers of title in NSW with the balance of transfers becoming mandatory from 1 July 2019.


So what happened…

Based on the information provided by the legal industry and the media, we understand that the Conveyancers emails were hacked. The hackers obtained the Conveyancers PEXA login information from their emails and used them to log into the PEXA system. Once logged into the system as the Conveyancer, they added themselves as a user. From here they entered their account details for the surplus funds in place of the owner’s.


What have PEXA done since this happened…

Since the computer hack, PEXA have implemented a number of additional security measures including increased monitoring of accounts to detect unusual activity, changing the way new users are added to the system, introducing a two-step login process and a Residential Seller Guarantee.

We recently experienced this first hand. We had a new staff member join the property team and added her as a user in the PEXA system. This staff member was not immediately able to access the system. Instead, a member of the PEXA team phoned the office to confirm it was, in fact, our office that added the user. Only once this was confirmed with PEXA over the phone did they allow this additional user to start accessing the system.

The two-step login process, which has also been implemented since the hacking incident was reported, involves a login with a password and a code. The code is sent to a mobile device, once the email address and password are entered. Only after inserting both the password and then the code sent to the mobile device can you enter the PEXA system.

The PEXA Residential Seller Guarantee provides protection to sellers in the event of fraud. It gives the seller the option to make a claim under the Guarantee, rather than trying to recover the costs another way if their funds have been misdirected.


What should I consider as a seller or a buyer whose transaction may be completed in PEXA…

  • PEXA has assured the industry that the platform is secure

  • The incidents were isolated – our firm has been transacting in PEXA since 2015. We have not encountered any incidents where funds were misdirected and all our clients have been very pleased with the system

  • Ask your Conveyancer about the security systems and procedures they have in place to protect against hackers

Stay tuned for more information about PEXA and e-conveyancing as we get closer to the mandating dates.

For further information contact:

Melina Costantino
Licensed Conveyancer
02 4607 2104

Surcharge purchaser duty exemption/refund for Australian-based developers

On 21 June 2016, the NSW Government introduced surcharge purchaser duty “surcharge duty”, payable by foreign persons or entities purchasing residential property. As the name suggests, surcharge duty is payable in addition to transfer duty (previously known as stamp duty). When first introduced, surcharge duty was 4% of the purchase price/value. On 1 July 2017 it increased to 8%.


We have recently seen some changes to the Duties Act 1997 “the Act”, specifically, the addition of s104ZJA. This section of the Act provides:

1.     an exemption from surcharge duty; and

2.     a refund of surcharge duty, paid prior to the introduction of s104ZJA.


The exemption and refund apply to foreign-owned, Australian-based developers who satisfy the following conditions:

a.     Following completion of the transfer, a new home was constructed on the land and then sold to a non-associated party without the home having been occupied (other than as a display home); or

b.     The land has been subdivided for the purpose of the construction of a new home and then sold after the issue of a subdivision certificate.


No surcharge duty is payable if it is determined that foreign-owned, Australian-based developer is an exempt transferee. If the Chief Commissioner determines that the foreign-owned, Australian-based developer is likely to become entitled to a refund of the full amount of surcharge duty, then they may approve them as an exempt transferee. The approval as an exempt transferee is subject to conditions and can be revoked at any time.


Time restrictions apply in relation to making an application for a refund of surcharge duty.


We are pleased to have been the first firm to apply for and to have received, an exemption from surcharge duty on behalf of our client.


It is not currently possible to process an exemption from surcharge duty on EDR. As such, an application is required to be made by written submission to Revenue NSW.


The application for an exemption from surcharge duty must include the grounds for exemption and must enclose the Contract, Transfer and Purchaser/Transferee Declaration together with a statutory declaration stating the Purchaser will meet the requirements set out in s104ZJA of the Act.


For further information contact:

Melina Costantino
Licensed Conveyancer
02 4607 2104

Illegal waste dumper jailed in the NSW Land and Environment Court

On Thursday, 31 May 2018, Dib Hanna was sentenced to three years in prison, being the first person to be jailed in the NSW Land and Environment Court under the 2014 anti-dumping legislation.


Mr Hanna is being called Sydney’s most notorious waste dumper after repeatedly been caught illegally dumping asbestos over the past ten years.


The NSW Environment Protection Authority commenced its prosecution in 2016, Mr Hanna failed to appear in Court to answer the charges and he was arrested in Victoria and extradited to NSW.  This was the first time that a person had been extradited in relation to environmental offences.


Mr Hanna pled guilty to one charge of illegal transport of waste and four counts of illegal dumping of waste on private properties during 2015 and 2016. 


The Court heard that Mr Hanna had advertised free clean top soil, clay and crushed by way of a letterbox drop bitumen and when he was contacted by interested residents he would send truck drivers to dump waste, including asbestos at their homes.  It was found that Mr Hanna instructed the dumping of some 461 tonnes of waste, including asbestos to people’s homes.


As well as the prison sentence Mr Hanna was ordered to clean up the dumped waste, pay the Environment Protection Authority’s legal costs and take out newspaper advertisements publicising his punishment as a deterrent to other would-be offenders.


Mr Hanna’s sentences was backdated to 17 April 2017, the earliest Mr Hanna can be released is 16 July 2020.

For any further advice or legal assistance on this issue, please contact us at Coutts on 1300 268 887.

Licensed Conveyancers & Solicitors - The Basics!

As a Licensed Conveyancer, I act on property transactions day in and day out but I always try to remember that the people I help are not necessarily people who do this sort of thing all the time. Sometimes they are first home buyers and other times they are people who just haven’t bought or sold in years. Because of this, I find it’s so important to get back to basics and give simple answers to common questions, none of this legal jargon. So in saying that…

What is a Licensed Conveyancer?

A Licensed Conveyancer is a legal professional who facilitates the legal process of buying or selling for you.


What is the difference between a Licensed Conveyancer and a Solicitor?


A question I get a lot is whether a Licensed Conveyancer is the same as a Solicitor. The short answer is no. In saying this, when buying and selling, a Licensed Conveyancer provides the exact same service that a Solicitor would.


The key difference is that a Licensed Conveyancer only practices in the area of Property Law and a Solicitor is qualified to practice in other areas of law.


Both Licensed Conveyancers and Solicitors are qualified and regulated professionals who can act for you in relation to your property transaction.


Another question I get is ‘If I instruct a Licensed Conveyancer, do I still need a Solicitor?’. The answer to this is also no. You can instruct a Licensed Conveyancer or a Solicitor to act on your property transaction. If you instruct a Licensed Conveyancer you don’t also then need to instruct a Solicitor.


If you found this information helpful, please share it with your family and friends. You may also want to check out some of our other blogs.

For further information contact:

Melina Costantino
Licensed Conveyancer
02 4607 2104

How does e-Conveyancing benefit me?

What is e-Conveyancing?

To answer this, we must first answer the question ‘What is Conveyancing?’. Conveyancing is the legal process involved in buying or selling property. e-Conveyancing is the same process, only done electronically meaning the traditional processes and paperwork involved in a manual conveyance are substantially reduced. e-Conveyancing aims to simplify and digitise what can be a complex process as it brings the manual conveyance into the 21st century.

Legal documents are electronically signed and lodged online, instead of in person. In addition to this, funds are paid and received electronically instead of via bank cheques. It is because of this that e-Conveyancing eliminates the need for a physical presence, be it to sign documents and/or at settlement.

e-Conveyancing is already being practiced across several states of Australia including New South Wales as we as an industry try to transition toward a 100% digital future.

How will this benefit me as a seller?

You get your money faster. Funds are paid and cleared in your account instantly, on the day of settlement. There is no more waiting for cheques to be banked and for funds to then clear. With e-Conveyancing you have immediate access to funds from settlement.

Safety first. e-Conveyancing is tightly regulated. Processes are in place to verify the identity of the parties and allow parties to electronically sign documents securely. For all those tech savvy people, the data is encrypted and the receiving computer checks the data to make sure it wasn’t changed in transit.

Less paperwork. Sending documents in the post to be signed increases the risk of delays to settlement, particularly when documents are lost. With electronic signing, there are less documents being posted.

Saves time. In order for Contracts to exchange, you must sign the Contract, and in order for settlement to occur, you must sign the Transfer. Electronic signing means you can exchange sooner - there’s no waiting for the ‘original’ signed Contracts to be provided. It means you can avoid the hassle of printing, scanning and posting documents too. You don’t need to make time to drop into the office to sign the Transfer either. The Transfer is signed by the Conveyancer on your behalf, using their digital certificate.

How will this benefit me as a buyer?

Reduces costs. Some banks charge $10, even $15 per bank cheque required for settlement. With e-Conveyancing, funds are paid electronically, eliminating the need for bank cheques and additional expenses like bank cheque fees.

Safety first. e-Conveyancing is tightly regulated. Processes are in place to verify the identity of the parties and allow parties to electronically sign documents securely. For all those tech savvy people, the data is encrypted and the receiving computer checks the data to make sure it wasn’t changed in transit.

Less paperwork. Sending documents in the post to be signed increases the risk of delays, particularly when documents are lost. e-Conveyancing allows electronic signing. This reduces the chances of a delay to settlement.

Saves time. Electronic signing means you can sign the Contract and/or loan documents in the comfort of your own home, at a time that suits. You don’t need to take time off work or print, sign and post originals in.

Less risk and more certainty. I was reading something the other day that reported 1 in 5 people surveyed experience delays to settlement. As a buyer, if the delay is with you, the seller can impose penalties. Delays can also be quite stressful particularly when removalists have already been organised. With e-Conveyancing the risk of errors and delays is significantly reduced, giving you added certainty of a successful on-time exchange and settlement. This is achieved through electronic signing as well as better checks and balances through electronic channels. For example, there are no cheques drawn in e-Conveyancing, the funds are electronic. This eliminates the chances of cheques being drawn incorrectly resulting in a delay or even a cancellation to settlement.

Peace of mind. In the manual world documents required to transfer ownership to you are typically not lodged for days or sometimes weeks after settlement. With e-Conveyancing it is instant, giving you peace of mind. You can be sure you become the owner on the day of settlement with electronic lodgement to the Land Titles Office. This also means Government authorities like Council and Water are advised of the change of ownership sooner.

How will this benefit me as a Real Estate Agent?

Have you ever waited days, even weeks to receive a cheque for your commission? Only for you then to have wait for the cheque to be banked and cleared into your account. Instead of drawing cheques, e-Conveyancing pays funds instantaneously on settlement. Where the commission is required to be drawn from the sale proceeds, rather than deducted from a deposit you already hold, they are transferred and appear as cleared funds in your account on the day of settlement.

Buying or selling a house? Get your fixed fee conveyancing quote from Coutts Solicitors & Conveyancers today.