Receiving Advance Payments from Home Buyers: Correct Interpretation and Clarification is Necessary

Law on Residential Housing stipulates that generally, developers shall not be entitled to receive any advance payments from home buyers who purchase residential houses to be developed in the future before the foundation work of the property is completed.

This provision has been interpreted by competent authroties that any amount received by developers from their home buyers prior to the completion of the foundation, shall be deemed illegal and such transactions may be invalid.

However, the business in practice is very various by nature, the developers, in some cases, expect to know how many purchases have committed to buy houses in their projects. Therefore, deposit agreement is a method to secure the housing purchase and sales contracts. The amounts received from such deposit agreements may be at the risk of being regarded as a violation of the aforementioned provision.

In reality, some developers who collected payments from their potential buyers in the form of a “deposit”, or “goodwill amount”, and etc were imposed with administrative sanctions.

Deposits or Advance Payments?

From a legal perspective, there are some aspects that need to be considered in relation to this issue as follows:

Pursuant to regulations stipulated in the Civil Code, a deposit agreement means an amount of money delivered by one party to another party as a security for its performance of the further steps of the contemplated transaction. In the mentioned case, the transaction between the developer and a home buyer is the execution of a housing purchase and sales contract. Therefore, the deposit agreement between developers and its potential buyers prior to the completion of the foundations contains the provision that potential buyers pay a deposit amount to secure their performance commitments. Such buyers shall enter into the housing purchase and sales contracts with the developers when the projects have met the required conditions; in case the buyers do not fulfill their commitments, they shall forfeit their deposits…In our opinion, such agreements is in compliance with the Civil Code regarding deposit agreements.

The Law on Residential Housing provides that developers shall not be entitled to receive an “advance payment” from the buyers prior to the completion of the foundation. This intended provision is justified in avoiding the possibility that developers do not have the sufficient financial capacity to complete the property projects, which may adversely affect the interests of buyers ultimately. This provision is intended for the protection of buyer’s interests, but how should it be interpreted correctly?

In our opinion, the fact that developers receive deposit amounts from their home buyers is not supposed that they have received “advance payment” because the two transactions are different in legal nature: one is the deposit transaction, while the other is the housing purchase transaction. Indeed, from an accounting perspective, deposit amounts cannot  be entered to the accounts as the payments from buyers, because the developers always have an obligation to return deposits (including deposit penalties as agreed) to buyers in the event of any breach of agreement by the developers. Therefore, up to this point, the developers and the potential buyers have still not conducted in house purchase transactions. If such advance payments are supposed to be payments according to housing purchase and sale contracts, such payments shall accounted as revenue of the developers.

A unified interpretation by authorities needed

Relevant competent authorities usually suppose that “receiving deposits” and “receiving advance payments” are the same, and consequently presuming that the developers have breached regulations if receiving deposit amounts, and the related transactions are likely to be canceled due to its invalidity.

The provision of Law on Residential Housing mentioned above for the purpose of protection for interests of buyers is essential and justified. However, the assurance required to enable developers (as businesses) to be advantageous in their doing business within the legal framework is also necessary.

Currently, Law on Residential Housing 2014 and Law on Real Estate Business 2014 provides quite sufficiently regulations in order to remove incapable developers. For example, Law on Real estate requires a developer’s performance of housing project must be guaranteed by a reputable bank.  And furthermore, the developers are entitled to receive advance payments from the buyers up to 50 % or 70% of the housing sale price, and etc. All of these regulations, in our view,  secure enough the interests of home buyers.

Therefore, the further expanded interpretation of competent authorities is neither consistent with the spirit of the Civil Code, nor necessary in practice. Furthermore, such interpretations may adversely affect trading transactions between parties.

It is necessary to have guidance, or a specific confirmation from the Ministry of Construction regarding the fact that developers can receive deposit amounts (prior to the completion of the foundation) is consistent with applicable laws, in order to remove the “hanging verdict” for developers due to different interpretations of the relevant authorities at the local level.

By Vietnam Law Insight.

Disclaimer: This Briefing is for information purposes only. Its contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as detailed advice in individual cases. For more information, please contact us or visit the website: Http://LNTpartners.com

The article contributed by Mr. Tran Thai Binh, LNT & Partners. Its contents do not constitute legal advice. For more information, please contact lawyers via email: binh.tran@LNTpartners.com

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