I was offered a lease on a commercial property by an agent that promoted it for retail use. When I asked to use the building commercially they claimed I was on a residential contract and they had inserted a clause forbidding me from trading on the site. The ad I responded to read:

Multipurpose site

An exciting prospect for a residential tenant seeking office/retail accommodation plus storage offering direct access from ****** Street. The residential site was recently refurbished and accommodation includes 2 Bedrooms, kitchen and brand new bathroom - On-site parking is also available. Ideal opportunity for a multitude of uses. Flexible lease terms available. **** per calendar month.

I made my commercial intentions 100% clear from the very beginning and the agent promoted the commercial benefits but when I arrived to sign the documents I was tricked into signing a lease the agent claims "forbids commercial use of the premises". I was told all I required was "written consent" from the landlord but when I asked for it they told me to pay unspecified "costs".

Do I have legal options under false representation, pressure sales, consumer law or fraud if I requested but didn't actually receive a lease that was "multipurpose office/retail accommodation" on "flexible terms"?

EDIT: I found this and it seems relevant, is it?

National laws for unfair contract terms

As a supplier, you must ensure your contracts comply with national unfair contract terms laws.

These protect consumers against contract terms that:

would cause a significant imbalance in their rights and obligations under a contract
are not reasonably necessary to protect the trader
would cause detriment (financial or otherwise) to a consumer.

You must not include terms that allow you to:

change the contract without reference to the consumer
avoid responsibility when things go wrong
avoid liability for negligence
solely determine if the contract has been breached
impose fees and charges not related to costs incurred.

If a court finds a term is unfair, that term is treated as if it never existed. If the contract can operate without the unfair term, it will still be binding. Any party to the contract can apply to a court for such a determination.

The unfair contract terms laws do not apply to a contract to supply goods or services, or financial products or services, from one business to another.

National unfair contract terms legislation is part of the Trade Practices Act 1974.

  • 1
    You are quoting consumer law, yet at the same time you want to use the property commercially. That doesn't go together well. If you want to argue that commercial use should be allowed, then how are consumer laws supposed to apply to you?
    – gnasher729
    Jan 17, 2016 at 2:07
  • What state are you in ? I know that in New Zealand, Real Estate Agents have very strict duties of care - and you would almost certainly have a case against them. I imagine this is true in some/all places in Australia (for example legislation.nsw.gov.au/~/view/act/2002/66/part3/div5 has plenty of clauses you could go after the agent for breaching if you are in NSW)
    – davidgo
    Sep 1, 2016 at 4:26

2 Answers 2


Sorry. You're stuffed. Quoting directly from your post:

The unfair contract terms laws do not apply to a contract to supply goods or services, or financial products or services, from one business to another.

If you want to use the premises commercially, you're a business.

At least in England and Wales (and I imagine from the quote that Australia is similar), there is an assumption that consumers are easily exploited and must be protected. Businesses on the other hand are expected to look out for themselves. The fact that "Joe the plumber" can't really compete on equal terms with "MegaCorp Bank" when he wants to take out a loan, or sign a lease, doesn't come into it.

You might have some come-back if you can show you relied on some assurances from the estate agent as to how to interpret specific clauses, but you are going to need a (paid for) lawyer to argue that one.

How much are the costs? If they are a few hundred $AUS you may find it is cheapest to just eat the cost.


The analog to a warranty of merchantability for rentals is called the warranty of habitability. Although most (if not all) jurisdictions in Australia do have laws covering an implied warranty of habitability, the terms are not the same as with the warranty of merchantability. For example, this document goes into detail about warranty of habitability laws for Adelaide:


(Edit to make it clearer) Habitability does not cover the type of issue you describe. You were not "tricked into signing a lease" - you chose to sign it and you clearly know how to read and write. You agreed to the terms.

  • 1
    While that is the closest analogy, I don't think it is really what the OP wants. The habitability of the property doesn't seem to be under dispute. Aug 31, 2016 at 13:47

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