Re Lifestyle Residences Hobsons Bay Pty Ltd (recs & mgrs apptd) [2023] VSC 179 (6 April 2023): statutory demand, service under section 109X(1)(a), service outside the statutory period, whether director can make application on behalf of company when receivers appointed

April 23, 2023

The Victorian Supreme Court in Re Lifestyle Residences Hobsons Bay Pty Ltd (recs & mgrs apptd) [2023] VSC 179 considered a range of issues; whether a director can bring an application when receivers appointed, the operation of section 109X(1)(a) of the Act and the calculation of service. it makes it clear that there is an immutability of filing an application out of time making the application is a nullity.

FACTS

The facts relating to service were:

  • on 22 November 2022, Ms Celia Luki, the solicitor with carriage of the matter for the defendant, ascertained the registered office address of the Company from an Australian Securities and Investments Commission (‘ASIC’) company search [35].
  • Luki requested the Office Services Clerk in her firm in Redfern, New South Wales, to organise for the documents to be couriered to Melbourne for delivery to the registered office address.
  • a Client Services Assistant at McCullough Robertson received Luki’s instructions on the service of the statutory demand in the sum of $213,166.89 in an email forwarded to her by the Office Services Clerk, who also provided the statutory demand and accompanying affidavit.
  • the assistant logged into the Toll Priority (Aus) system and inputted those details, recording Luki’s email address as the contact person to receive email updates on the progress of the delivery of the demand. She printed a label from the Toll system, which included all of the recipient’s details which she affixed the label onto a Toll Express Services priority satchel and obtained a tracking number and manifest document.
  • in the afternoon of 22 November 2022, a courier from Toll attended the McCullough Robertson office and collected the sealed envelope and two copies of the manifest document [35]
  • on 16 December 2022 the tracking log records the documents were delivered to the company at the registered office address on 23 November 2022 at 9:46am. The proof of delivery document clearly records the registered office at which delivery occurred and the signature of Paula accepting delivery of the envelope [36]. Paula was a receptionist an accounting firm engaged by the company, whose business address is the registered office address of the company.
  • Paula was unsure who to forward the demand to and sought confirmation from her principal, Mr Sam Cimino. However, because Cimino was extremely busy that day, she was only able to email him and unable to speak to him in person [37].
  • on 24 November 2022, Paula had a discussion with Cimino, who instructed her to immediately send the statutory demand to Mr Burgess, Mr Dale Harrison and Mr Peter Van De Steeg, who are nominated contact people at the company. 
  • Paula emailed the nominated people at the company, attaching an electronic copy of the statutory demand but erroneously stated the demand had arrived by courier at the registered office address on 24 November 2022 when, in fact, it was delivered by courier the day prior [38]. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Re Straightline Construction Co Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 708 (18 November 2022); Application to set aside a statutory demand pursuant to s 459G of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) on grounds of genuine dispute, dispute as to the identity of the contracting parties

December 4, 2022

In Re Straightline Construction Co Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 708 the Supreme Court, per Gardiner AsJ, considered an application to set aside a statutory demand on the grounds that the applicant was not a party to the agreement giving rise to a liability which formed the basis of a statutory demand.  This is quite a common issue where parties are involved in the building and construction industry.  It is not uncommon for builders to work through multiple entities, many of whose names are quite similar.   As this case demonstrates, it is not simply enough for the Applicant to allege that the wrong party was served with a demand as another entity was a party to the contract. As this case shows such a contention can be successfully challenged if the respondent has contemporaneous documentation and concessions by representatives of the applicant .

FACTS

 On 9 December 2021, Hansen Yuncken Pty Ltd (‘Hansen Yuncken’), as head contractor, engaged Straightline Civil Pty Ltd (‘Straightline Civil’), as subcontractor, (‘the Hansen Yuncken Contract’) to carry out retention and foundation piling works as part of a large residential construction project at Bills Street, Hawthorn (‘the Project’) [6]

Straightline Construction’s evidence was that:

  • it defined the issue as

[Straightline Construction] disputes that the debt claimed in the Statutory Demand is due and payable, by reason of there being a genuine dispute that the debt is owing as the Company is not the entity which contracted with [Browns] to perform the services detailed in the Invoices, and the debts have not been sufficiently particularised.

  •  Straightline Construction was incorporated in March 2020
  • Straightline Construction performs civil construction works in metropolitan Melbourne, partiuclarly in  Brighton and Clayton
  • there are various ‘Straightline’ entities with different controllers, each having its own role in different projects & that Straightline Construction is not involved in the Hansen Yuncken contract at all [38]
  • where it is said that Browns had dealings with ‘Straightline’ for several years, it was in fact engaged by four separate Straightline entities depending on the project and the entity involved in the Project was Straightline Civil, not Straightline Construction [40].
  • a direction should have been issued to make it clear that invoices were to be issued to Straightline Civil and not Straightline Construction [41] invoices addressed to Straightline Construction should have been requested to be reissued to Straightline Civil.
  • on 20 September 2022, Peter Greenstreet, an Operations Manager of Browns, sent an email enquiring as to whom the invoices for the remaining works on the Project should be issued to & Oltan Yemez, representing Straightline Civil, responded, stating that all invoices should be issued to Straightline Civil [42].
  • an ASIC search of Straightline Civil  records Tarkan Gulenc as the sole director & the correspondence referred to between Mr Gulenc and representatives of Browns confirms that Straightline Civil admits it owes the debt [43]
  • in regard to correspondence relied on by Browns to support their proposition that Straightline Construction owes the debt, the reference to intentions to pay  does not refer to Straightline Construction being liable to pay the debt [46].
  • the communications containing promises to pay in the text message exchanges on 8 July 2022 were in the context of a statutory demand having been served by Browns approximately one month before and no reference to the identity of the contracting party as Straightline Civil [47]
  • an agreement has been reached (which he refers to as the ‘Tri-Partite Deed’) between representatives of Hansen Yuncken, Straightline Civil, and Browns in relation to the payment of outstanding amounts, whereby Hansen Yuncken agrees to pay progress payments due to Straightline Civil in respect of the Project directly to Browns, in satisfaction of outstanding invoices rendered by Browns in relation to the Project (including those the subject of the Demand) and that a total of $193,775.56 has been paid to date, being the payment of $105,739.93 (including GST) in relation to the July Payment Schedule and $88,035.63 (including GST) in relation to the August Payment Schedule [51] – [52].
  • Staightline Construcion has never been contracted to perform subcontract work on any sites in Hawthorn [12]

The respondent’s evidence Read the rest of this entry »

Re J Build Developments Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 434 (4 August 2022): s 459G Corporations Act, whether genuine dispute is also a payment claim under Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act,

November 20, 2022

In Re J Build Developments Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 434 Hetyey AsJ set aside a statutory demand on the basis that there was a genuine dispute in the context of a notice being issued under the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2002.

FACTS

The facts in applications to set aside statutory demand relating to construction contracts and building works invariably have complicated and involved factual issues.  This case is no exception.

On 26 June 2020, J Build entered into a $2.9 million building contract with Abboud Corporates Pty Ltd to construct three double-storey residential dwellings at 10 Glyndon Road, Camberwell, Victoria (‘the head contract’ and ‘the property’, respectively) [2].

AES is a mechanical and electrical services provider specialising in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and associated electrical work [2].

On or about 24 February 2020, Jamiel Daou (“Daou”),  a director of J Build, texted Wright, the sole director of AES, asking for  a quotation  for the supply and installation of ducted heating and cooling air-conditioning systems in each of the units at the property (‘the sub-contracting works’).  There was a subsquent telephone conversation between the two the contents of which are in contention.

On 5 March 2020, AES provided JB Build with a quotatio of $88,002.64 inclusive of GST.

Prior to 22 October 2020, JB Build requested that revisions be made to the quotation. On 22 October 2020, AES issued a second quotation for $101,507.09 (inclusive of GST) [6].

On or around 27 October 2020, the parties discussed a further variation which would provide a cost saving to the plaintiff of between $5,000 and $6,000 and reduce the contract price contained in the second quotation [7]. On 28 October 2020, Wright emailed Daou requested confirmation of the revised second quotation with Daou responding via email  with the word ‘[a]pproved’ [8].

On 31 October 2021, AES issued an invoice for $16,874.55 (inclusive of GST) regarding work performed between 28 October 2020 and 31 October 2020,  payable by 14 November 2020 but paid on 7 December 2020 [10].

Wright and Daou  had a site meeting at the property on or around 5 February 2021 where they discussed the need for further variations to AES’ scope of work [11]. AES issued J Build with a further revised quotation on 14 May 2021, documenting additional proposed revisions to the scope of work and increasing the contract price to $109,047.31 (inclusive of GST) (‘the third quotation’). A signed acceptance of the third quotation was returned to AES via email later that day [12].  AES rendered an invoice in the sum of $81,504.61 (inclusive of GST) (‘the second invoice’)  to J Build by email on 14 On 31 May 2021. AES required payment by 30 June 2021. J Build didn’t pay by this date and in or around July 2021, AES stopped work [13]. J Build paid AES $41,504.61 on 22 July 2021 and $5,000 on 20 September 2021 [15], leaving $35,000 owing in respect of the second invoice.

On 4 October 2021, AES served a notice under s 18(2) of the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act 2002 (Vic) (‘the SOP Act’) on J Build,   J Build responded the next day by sending AES a payment schedule informing AES that it proposed paying nil in respect of the second invoice on the basis that works had not been completed. No adjudication application was ultimately pursued by AES [16].

On 14 October 2021 AES instructed its solicitors to issue and serve the statutory demand claiming the  $35,000 as ‘monies due and owing pursuant to [AES’] tax invoice no 6394 dated 31 May 2021,’ which refers to the second invoice. The statutory demand did not annex a copy of the second invoice [17].

J Build commenced this application  on 3 November 2021 [18].

The defendant contended that:

  • the second invoice referred to in the statutory demand constitutes a ‘payment claim’ within the meaning of s 14 of the SOP Act which was not effectively challenged by way of a ‘payment schedule’ served within time and is therefore due and payable by force of statute and beyond challenge.
  • J Build was precluded from contending the existence of any genuine dispute about the subject of the statutory demand in this proceeding.

DECISION

The court, at [21],defined the issues for determination as:

(a) is there a genuine dispute under s 459H(1)(a) of the Act that the defendant’s invoice the subject of the demand (ie the second invoice) is a ‘payment claim’ which satisfies the requirements of s 14 of the SOP Act? In particular, is there a genuine dispute whether: Read the rest of this entry »

Re Australian Builders Group Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 254 (20 May 2022): statutory demand, s 459G, application to set aside, genuine dispute about existence and/or amount of debt & whether due and payable because condition precedent in deed not met,validity of notice, principles of economic duress

May 23, 2022

In Re Australian Builders Group Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 254 the Supreme Court, per Hetyey AsJ, set aside a statutory demand based on a genuine dispute based on the construction of an agreement and default notice but also by a claim of duress.

FACTS

On or around 1 June 2017 Mind, a not-for-profit organisation providing community-managed specialist mental health services entered into an agreement with Australian Win Win Investment Pty Ltd (‘the landlord’) to lease a property located at 691 High Street, Thornbury, Victoria (‘the property’ and ‘the lease’ respectively) for an amount of $130,000 per annum (approximately $10,833.33 per calendar month) [1].

In early May 2018, Mind and ABG entered into a sublease agreement for the property (‘the sublease’). The parties to the sublease agreed that ABG would pay a reduced amount of rent of $121,000 per annum (approximately $10,083.33 per calendar month) [2].

From February 2019, ABG began to fall into arrears & by 15 April 2021, it owed Mind approximately eight months’ rent, totalling $82,279.92 (‘the arrears’). Pursuant to a repayment deed, ABG agreed to make regular payments of the arrears of $2,500 plus GST, together with interest, per week.

Regarding the repayment Read the rest of this entry »

CBS Commercial Canberra Pty Ltd v Axis Commercial (ACT) Pty Ltd, in the matter of CBS Commercial Canberra Pty Ltd [2022] FCA 544 (12 May 2022): application to set aside statutory demand, offsetting claim,

May 15, 2022

The Federal Court, per Halley J, set aside a statutory demand in CBS Commercial Canberra Pty Ltd v Axis Commercial (ACT) Pty Ltd, in the matter of CBS Commercial Canberra Pty Ltd [2022] FCA 544 in finding that an offsetting claim constitutes a genuine dispute. It is a very good decision setting out the complications of offsetting claims arising from building contracts relied upon in setting aside a statutory demand which is based on a certificate and judgment obtained under the Security of Payments Act.

FACTS

CBS engaged Axis as a sub-contractor to undertake work at a building site located in Gungahlin in the Australian Capital Territory [12].

The chronological events Read the rest of this entry »

Bioaction Pty Ltd v Ogborne, in the matter of Bioaction Pty Ltd [2022] FCA 436 (26 April 2022): 459G of the Corporations Act 2001, whether service within 21 days

April 27, 2022

In Bioaction Pty Ltd v Ogborne, in the matter of Bioaction Pty Ltd [2022] FCA 436 the Federal Court considered, for the first time by the courts, the deeming provisions of sections 105A and 105B of the Corporations Act regarding service applications to set aside a statutory demand within the 21 day time limit,.  

FACTS

By originating process filed on 3 February 2022, the plaintiff, Bioaction Pty Ltd, sought an order setting aside a statutory demand pursuant to s 459G of the Corporations Act dated 12 January 2022 served by the defendant, Gordon Ogborne (“Ogborne”) [5].

Bioaction  specialises in the design, manufacturing and installation of systems to eliminate or mitigate odorous, hazardous and corrosive gases & Ogborne was its Chief Financial Officer / Chief Operating Officer from December 2019 until November 2021, when he was made redundant [7].

Ogborne and Bioaction were in dispute as to his entitlements where Ogborne claimed he was entitled to any additional sum [8].

On 13 January 2022, Ogborne served the statutory demand on Bioaction seeking payment of $240,688.31 being unpaid:

  • salary,
  • superannuation,
  • salary in lieu of termination,
  • annual leave and
  • redundancy

pursuant to an employment contract [9].

The statutory demand was Read the rest of this entry »

Re Slodyczka & Farren Pty Ltd (Costs) [2022] VSC 102 (4 March 2022): application for costs by the defendant; where presumption of insolvency rebutted, multiple defences relied upon

March 9, 2022

The postscript to Re Slodyczka & Farren Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 102 is a decision by Associate Justice Hetyey regarding costs of the application. 

FACTS

in the substantive judgment  the plaintiff’s application to wind up the defendant in insolvency was dismissed.

The relevant facts for the purpose of considering a costs order were:

  • whilst the matter was commenced by originating process filed on 11 April 2021, there were delays and adjournments [2] resulted in two previous costs orders being made being:
    • on 7 July 2021, consent orders were made which, among other things, required the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s costs thrown away by reason of an adjournment of the hearing originally scheduled that day (‘the first costs order’).
    • at the next hearing date, on 27 July 2021, it was adjourned at the request of the defendant to enable it to put on supplementary material on the question of solvency, including audited accounts for the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 financial years. The plaintiff’s costs of the hearing be reserved (‘the second costs order’).

The defendant opposed the winding up application on the following alternative bases [4]:

(a) service of the plaintiff’s statutory demand dated 3 February 2021 (‘the statutory demand or the demand’) was defective;

(b) the defendant was solvent and could displace the statutory presumption of insolvency;

(c) the defendant should be given leave pursuant to s 459S of the Corporations Act2001 (Cth) (‘theCorporations Act’) to oppose the winding up application on a ground or grounds it could have relied on for the purpose of an application to set the demand aside. The grounds sought to be raised were: (i) there was a genuine dispute about the amount of the debt claimed in the statutory demand in accordance with s 459H(1)(a); (ii) the defendant had an offsetting claim for the purpose of s 459H(1)(b) of the Corporations Act; and (iii) the demand was defective and a substantial injustice would be caused to the defendant if the demand was not set aside pursuant to s 459J(1)(a) of the Corporations Act; and

(d) pursuant to s 467(1)(a) of the Corporations Act, the Court should dismiss the plaintiff’s application as a matter of discretion.

In the substantive judgment the court held that, [5]:

  • the defendant failed to rebut the presumption of service of the statutory demand under s 29(1) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (Cth).
  • the defendant succeeded in displacing the statutory presumption of insolvency on the basis that it was cash flow positive and balance sheet solvent. The proceeding was dismissed on this basis.
  • the defendant’s application under s 459S of the Corporations Act was not granted because the grounds sought to be raised in respect of the plaintiff’s debt were not material to proving solvency however  had the defendant failed to establish solvency the corut would haveultimately have granted it leave
  • the defendant could not to pursue its argument that the Court should dismiss the plaintiff’s application in accordance with the Court’s discretion under s 467(1)(a) of the Corporations Act because of a lack of proper notice to the plaintiff Read the rest of this entry »

Treasurer outlines proposed changes to insolvency laws

September 24, 2020

Yesterday and first thing this morning the media was abuzz, with coverage from the Guardian,  the Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC and the Financial Review (amongst many other news outlets) with news of proposed changes to the insolvency laws as embargoed releases were provided to them last night.

The Treasurer revealed the proposed changes to the insolvency laws.  That will significantly affect  professionals who practice insolvency law such as myself.

The Treasurers’ media release relevantly provides:

The Morrison Government will undertake the most significant reforms to Australia’s insolvency framework in 30 years as part of our economic recovery plan to keep businesses in business and Australians in jobs.

The reforms, which draw on key features from Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the United States, will help more small businesses restructure and survive the economic impact of COVID-19. As the economy continues to recover, it will be critical that distressed businesses have the necessary flexibility to either restructure or to wind down their operations in an orderly manner.

Key elements of the reforms include:

    • The introduction of a new debt restructuring process for incorporated businesses with liabilities of less than $1 million, drawing on some key features of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy model in the United States.
    • Moving from a rigid one-size-fits-all “creditor in possession” model to a more flexible “debtor in possession” model which will allow eligible small businesses to restructure their existing debts while remaining in control of their business.
    • A rapid twenty business day period for the development of a restructuring plan by a small business restructuring practitioner, followed by fifteen business days for creditors to vote on the plan.
    • A new, simplified liquidation pathway for small businesses to allow faster and lower cost liquidation.
    • Complementary measures to ensure the insolvency sector can respond effectively both in the short and long term to increased demand and to meet the needs of small business.

The reforms will cover around 76 per cent of businesses subject to insolvencies today, 98 per cent of whom who have less than 20 employees.

Together, these measures will reposition our insolvency system to reduce costs for small businesses, reduce the time they spend during the insolvency process, ensure greater economic dynamism, and ultimately help more small businesses get to the other side of the crisis.

On 22 March 2020, the Government announced temporary regulatory measures to help financially distressed businesses get to the other side of COVID-19. On 7 September 2020 the Government announced a further extension of this relief to 31 December 2020.  The new processes will be available for small businesses from 1 January 2021.

The 10 page fact sheet is found here and Read the rest of this entry »

Commonwealth extends trading while insolvent protections

September 9, 2020

The Attorney General announced yesterday that the Commonwealth Government will extend the insolvency and bankruptcy protections previously enacted in relation to:

  • trading while insolvent
  • increasing the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand and the time for responding to a statutory demand.

The protections will extend until 31 December 2020.

The Attorney General’s media release provides:

The Morrison Government will continue to provide regulatory relief for businesses that have been impacted by the Coronavirus crisis by extending temporary insolvency and bankruptcy protections until 31 December 2020.

Regulations will be made to extend the temporary increase in the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and the time companies have to respond to statutory demands they receive.

The changes will also extend the temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent.

These measures were part of more than 80 temporary regulatory changes the Government made designed to provide greater flexibility for businesses and individuals to operate during the coronavirus crisis.

The extension of these measures will lessen the threat of actions that could unnecessarily push businesses into insolvency and external administration at a time when they continue to be impacted by health restrictions.

These changes will help to prevent a further wave of failures before businesses have had the opportunity to recover.

In addition, the Government is providing an unprecedented level of support totalling $314 billion to cushion the blow for workers, households and businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

As the economy starts to recover, it will be critical that distressed businesses have the necessary flexibility to restructure or to wind down their operations in an orderly manner.

The Government will continue to help businesses successfully adapt and restructure so that they can bounce back on the other side of this crisis.

As the Age reports in ‘More harm than good’: Businesses get reprieve but thousands still set to fail on the the changes, importantly that the extensions may actually harm rather than benefit Read the rest of this entry »

Lewis (liquidator), in the matter of Concrete Supply Pty Ltd (in liq) [2020] FCA 841 (16 June 2020): s 477(2B) Corporations Act 2001 application, approval for liquidator to retain solicitor who act for creditor of the company in liquidation

July 16, 2020

In Lewis (liquidator), in the matter of Concrete Supply Pty Ltd (in liq) [2020] FCA 841 White considered the relevant principles in considering an application under section 477(2B) of the Corporations Act 2001.

FACTS

Between August 2009 and November 2017, ABCL had supplied concrete to Concrete Supply [5].

In October 2017, ABCL discovered that it had been underpaid about $12 million by Concrete Supply.  The underpayment was disguised by false entries made by one of its employees.  ABCL sought payment of the shortfall from Concrete Supply. On 14 November 2017, the directors of Concrete Supply resolved that it was, or was likely to become, insolvent and appointed Messrs Cooper and Cantone at Worrells as administrators. On 19 December 2017, the creditors of Concrete Supply resolved that it enter into a Deed of Company Arrangement (” DOCA”) [5].

ABCL opposed the Read the rest of this entry »

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