A caveat is a document that any person with a legal interest in a property (but for the registered owner of the property) can lodge at the Land Title Office.
In a literal sense, a caveat means a “warning”. The person lodging the caveat (the caveator) will provide details of their claim and means for them to be formally contacted in connection with the caveat. The relevant government body will then notify anyone with an interest in the property who is affected by the caveat.
What does having an “interest” in a property actually mean?
Basically it means that someone else has an interest in the property, which usually is some relation between the debt and the property, or they have an equity interest in it.
The lodging of a caveat over a property is a way of telling anyone who wants to deal with the property to be aware of the fact that someone else’s interest already has priority.
In other words, a caveat is a written warning to anyone who checks the Certificate of Title of the property that the person who lodged the caveat has an interest in it.
The Registrar of Titles cannot deal with the property without first notifying the caveator.
So what is a Caveatable Interest?
Just because someone owes you money, does not automatically mean you can register a caveat on their house and demand payment of your debt if they try to sell.
Only certain types of interests or claims are capable of supporting a caveat. The interest or claim has to be directly related to the land, or the owner of the land has to have given the Caveator express, written consent to register a caveat on their land. A simple monetary debt, then, is not an interest that can support a caveat, however if the landowner has agreed that they will pay you that debt from their sale of their home, then it may be a caveatable interest.
Registration of a Caveat
A caveat should be lodged as soon as the caveatable interest is created in the property. If there is a delay in lodging the caveat, there is a risk that a transaction might occur in relation to the property that would affect the caveatable interest.
Once a caveat is registered on title to a property, the Registrar of Titles of the Land Title Office is required to send a notice to the registered proprietor notifying them of the lodgement of the caveat.
A person who lodges a caveat without reasonable cause will be liable for any loss or damage that follows. Further, a solicitor who lodges a caveat knowing that there is no legitimate basis for the caveat will be guilty of professional misconduct and may be personally liable for damages.
If you would like to know more about caveats and how you could protect your rights and interest, simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 08 8410 9069 to arrange an appointment.
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Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice and Straits Lawyers will not be legally responsible for any actions you take based on this article.