For 30 years, the standard notice provision in most broker-drafted residential real estate contracts has required that a party’s notice of termination during the attorney-review period be delivered to the other party by certified mail, telegram or personal delivery. However, Somerset County Chancery Court Judge Edward Coleman ruled on March 14 that parties may send such termination notice by email or fax, thereby recognizing the quicker and more efficient means of communication ubiquitous in modern business and legal practice. Conley v. Guerrero, SOM-C-12005-14 (Mar. 14, 2014). While the traditional notice requirements may still apply in many jurisdictions, the Conley decision is welcome news for many residential real estate attorneys who already communicate by email despite the formal requirements of N.J.A.C. 11:5-6.2.
The unique facts of the Conley case gave the court an opportunity to consider the 30-year-old notice standard. In Conley, the plaintiffs signed a residential real estate contract to purchase a condominium on Jan. 12. The defendants, the sellers, executed the contract on Jan. 14. The contract contained the standard three-day attorney-review clause, as required in contracts for the sale of residential property drafted by licensed real estate brokers, which allowed for termination of the contract during the attorney-review period. The attorney-review period commenced on Jan. 15 and, taking into account weekends and holidays, expired at the close of business on Jan. 21. A “bidding war” ensued during the attorney-review period, causing the sellers to terminate the contract.
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