A Sydney tradie has lost his $241,500 deposit and a deal to own a $4.8 million mansion because he missed the payment date by two days and the sellers cancelled.
Despite the vendors immediately objecting that the late payment voided the contract, they maintained the right to keep the balance payment of more than $90,000 and this week a judge ruled in their favour.
Tradie Theo Alexakis had originally handed over $150,000 for an initial deposit on the five-bedroom four-bathroom home in the exclusive Sydney eastern suburbs.
Mr Alexakis exchanged contracts on the house, which is on a large block with waterfront views in the high end suburb of Vaucluse, on April 4, 2019.
The contract’s fine print stipulated the deposit balance of $91,500 must be paid “on the fourth month after the contract date”.
The luxury home’s vendors, Chi Hing Wan and Kwan Yee Chan, interpreted the contract as requiring the remaining deposit be paid on or before August 4, 2019, exactly four months afterwards.
Mr Alexakis, a glazer who specialises in pool fencing and shower screens, left Australia with his family in June 2019, for an extended holiday in Greece.
While he was overseas in July 2019, the home’s selling agent Courtney Wong sent him reminder emails to pay the outstanding amount.
In Greece on August 1, Mr Alexakis replied, “With regards to the second part of the deposit I’m currently overseas and have been for the past five weeks. I will be returning on 6th August and will be depositing the balance … shortly after.”
Mr Wong’s inbox received the email at 4.45am Sydney time on August 2.
He replied to Mr Alexakis at 11.05am, writing “Contract provides for payment no later than 4th of August. Kindly provide receipt of payment.”
Mr Alexakis returned to Australia on the afternoon on August 6, and transferred the remaining balance of $91,500 on August 7.
The vendors kept the balance on top of the original payment, retaining $241,500, but cancelled the contract on the grounds Mr Alexakis had failed to pay the full deposit in time.
Mr Alexakis then sued the vendors in the NSW Supreme Court in a civil proceeding to recover his deposit.
However, Justice Rowan Darke ruled last week that Chi Hing Wan and Kwan Yee Chan could rightfully keep the deposit and the property.
The court found the contract’s language was “awkward”, but that the full amount had been payable before August 5, 2019.
Justice Darke ruled Mr Alexakis had misunderstood the contract and breached its terms.