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Don't let anyone but Santa sneak down your chimney over Xmas - 6 tips for businesses that want to stay open in 2018

posted 19th December 2017
Call us Scroogey McScroogeFace, but it’s that time of year where the MV Litigators feel obliged to remind you about the nasty side of Christmas. Yes it’s the festive season, but it’s also prime time for robberies and we’re not just talking about the cat-burglar kind.

Shutting your business down for a week or two can leave it defenceless against cunningly-timed legal notices that rob you of your Happy New Year before the recycling man has even collected the empty Moét bottles.

We asked our Litigation Team to share their top tips on how to avoid an unhappy start to your business in 2018. The team came up with these 6 “Boring but Necessary” Christmas To-Dos:

Tip 1: Sort out your Christmas mail and make time to respond before it’s too late. What have you already received amongst all the Chrissy cards? Does any of your mail or email contain any nasty little business enders? These little surprises may look like:

  • Any invoices issued under the Building and Construction Industry (Security of Payment) Act (which trigger a strict 10 business day timeframe for response – although 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31 December are not counted).
  • Any statutory demand issued under the Corporations Act (which triggers a strict 21 calendar day timeframe – and each day over the Chrissy break counts).
  • Any notices of default or notices of dispute under any of your contracts (the timeframe depends on the notice and the contract, as does the calculation of whether it is business days or calendar days).
  • Any notices to complete on any purchase contracts you have entered into (usually 14 calendar days – meaning that each day over the Chrissy break counts).

Tip 2: Reflect on the year that was. Identify your business break ups of 2017 and those crazy exes that might just be vindictive enough to use the silly season to ruin your life over their disputed invoice. Legit or not, the unresolved claims have the potential to cause you a bigger headache than a Buck’s Fizz spiked with vodka if you let them creep up on you.

Tip 3: Allocate a designated driver. Although it's definitely the short straw, someone in your business needs to be responsible for checking the fax, emails and post over the break. Many legal notices slip through to the keeper because business owners assume that shutting the doors and putting the out-of-office on means they can’t be served. This is NOT TRUE.

Tip 4: Make a list and check it twice. That is, a list of all the possible locations at which your business might be served with documents (physically, or electronically). Identify:

  • All business email addresses. Ensure that old ones are shut down, and the ones that will be unattended are forwarded to your designated driver.
  • All fax numbers. Most modern faxes nowadays can go directly to email but if yours is the old fashioned kind, make sure is has paper in it and that someone will be able to check it.
  • All physical business locations, whether they are shop fronts, offices or building sites. Make sure someone is around to check any deliveries made there either by post or by hand over the break.
  • Your company’s ‘registered office’ and ‘business address’ as currently registered with ASIC. Your registered office might be managed by someone else (your accountant or lawyer), and your business address might be years out of date, but if the address is on the ASIC register it's still a perfectly valid means of serving you – even if you never actually get the document. If your addresses are out of date, update them and as a precaution (because ASIC takes a while to make the changes) enlist some elves to help with the old locations as per the next point.

Tip 5: Enlist elves. If your lawyer or accountant is your registered office, make sure they're aware if there's a possibility that you might be served with a legal notice. Brief them early to make sure that someone is going to check their mail, and that someone can be available if things get out of control. If their office is closed make sure they give you a mobile phone or email contact that will be monitored over the break.

Tip 6: Resolve to start the New Year with a clean slate. Although cash might be short right now, it really is a good idea to clear any old undisputed debts before you go on leave. Most property or equipment leases and supplier agreements contain nasty provisions about interest and legal costs if recovery steps are taken, and the consequences of postponing payment until January may be a whole lot worse than adding to your overdraft now. If you don’t sort the old debts out, their stink might haunt you into the New Year worse than a bag of prawn heads in a December wheelie bin. Need help getting your debts in hand – contact the team below.

Above all, stay safe, have fun, and a big Bah Humbug from the Litigators at MV!

For more litigation tips contact:
Alisa Taylor             Partner                  Construction Dispute Resolution
(02) 6279 4388         Alisa.Taylor@MVLawyers.com.au

Bernice Ellis            Partner                  Commercial Dispute Resolution Team
(02) 6279 4385         Bernice.Ellis@MVLawyers.com.au

 



This material has been prepared for the general information of clients of Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers. Its is not intended to take the place of professional advice and readers should not take action on specific issues in reliance upon any matter of information contained in it.

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