When does the Postal Acceptance Rule apply?

Question Details: I was asked to complete a form and "return [it] by 15/04/2013" - I posted the form before this date. The recipient has told me they only received it on 18/04/2013 and as such it was not returned in time. Does the Postal Acceptance Rule help me? The form concerned voting in a Unit Title Body Corporate, are there different rules for this?

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Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

The Postal Acceptance Rule seems unlikely to apply in the situation you have described, but it is difficult to say for certain based on the facts you have described.

The Postal Acceptance Rule is an exception to the general rule that acceptance of a contract must be communicated to the offeror before a contract can be in existence. Under the Rule, acceptance of a contract is said to occur at the time the acceptance is posted.

However, this Rule may not apply to your situation for two reasons:

1. It will not apply if the form that you returned did not concern a contractual arrangement. In other words, if you were not posting acceptance of an offer. So if the form you were returning was for the purpose of notifying the recipient of something, then the Rule would not apply because notification is not affected until the recipient has actually received the form with the notice on it. Or if the form contained your "vote" then the Rule would also not apply; and

2. The Rule can be displaced by an express or implied requirement that the acceptance actually be received before the contract is said to exist. The words "return it" would suggest that the form has to have been actually received by the recipient by 15 April 2013 and so it may not be enough that the form was posted before that date.

In addition, the operational rules governing the relevant Body Corporate may specify a procedure for the return of forms/voting which may displace the applicability of the Rule (if the form does actually relate to a contractual situation). We would suggest you review the rules relating to your Body Corporate. It is also relevant that under the Unit Titles Act 2000 if you choose to vote by proxy (including by post) then you must do so on the prescribed form. This means that if the form prescribes a date for return then you will likely have to comply with it.

For more information about voting at Body Corporate meetings and Body Corporates generally, please see: www.dbh.govt.nz

Answered 1 May 2013. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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