The right to ‘lodge and
maintain a caveat’ is not enough
If a lender has the right to ‘lodge and maintain a caveat’
with nothing more, then according to the NSW Court of
Appeal, that is not enough to support a caveat.
decision is Ta Lee Investment Pty Ltd v Antonios
 NSWCA 24 (22 February 2019) a decision of the Court
of Appeal Supreme Court of New South Wales (joint judgment
of Bathurst CJ, Beazley P & Macfarlan JA).
In 2011, Ta Lee loaned $1.5 million to a property
developer MV Developments (Lane Cove) Pty Ltd (in liq) to
finance the development of land in Finlayson Street, Lane
Cove into an apartment block. The Deed of Loan and Guarantee
provided that the loan was repayable on 10 June 2013, in
default of which interest was payable at 20% per annum for 6
months then at 30% per annum.
The Deed also provided that at any time after an Event of
Default, the Lender may:
Lodge and maintain a caveat on the titles to the
Aurora Site or the consolidated title for the Aurora
Site until such time the Lender receives full payment of
all moneys payable to the Lender (clause 7.2)
On 16 April 2015, the strata plan was registered,
consisting of 56 lots.
The loan was not repaid, and on 23 June 2015 Ta Lee
lodged a caveat over lot 34 claiming “a right to caveat
under clause 7.2”; and on 4 August 2015, it lodged a second
caveat over lot 34 claiming an “equitable charge” by virtue
of an “implied right to charge the land” under clause 7.2.
In the meantime, on 15 April 2015, MV Developments had
entered into a contract to sell lot 34 to Mr Antonios for
$910,000. The price was paid in an unusual fashion. Mr
Antonios was a professional poker player and Mr Fong, the
director of MV Investments, agreed to accept (and was paid)
$510,000 in casino chips, $200,000 in cash and $200,000 by
cheque. The Court found that the price had been paid in
full, even though the method of payment did not comply
strictly with the terms of the Contract of Sale.
On 23 May 2015, Mr Antonios was given the keys to lot 34
by Mr Fong and was told he could “move in now”. Mr Antonios
had difficulty in obtaining a signed copy of the Contract of
Sale, and it was not until 6 June 2016 that he lodged a
caveat claiming an ‘equitable interest’ under the Contract
The trial judge (Emmett AJA) found that the Caveats
lodged by Ta Lee were not valid and ordered that the title
to lot 34 be transferred to Mr Antonios, which was done.
Was there an intention to
create a charge (to support a Caveat) by Ta Lee?
The Court framed the question of validity of the caveat
upon whether clause 7.2 creates an equitable charge over the
property to secure repayment of the loan.
There is no standard formulation. The Court quoted with
approval this view expressed by Gleeson JA, with whom
Meagher and Leeming JJA agreed, that:
 Whether it is possible to discern from the
authorisation to lodge a caveat (given by a registered
proprietor), an intention to create a charge which would
support a caveat is the subject of conflicting views in
the authorities. (Aged Care Services Pty Ltd v
Kanning Services Pty Ltd (2013) 86 NSWLR 174).
In Aged Care Services, the lender was assured “You
will be secured” which the Court found to be sufficient
intention to create a charge to support the Caveat.
The Court proceeded to give guidance upon acceptable
formulations to create an equitable charge to support a
In our opinion, cl 7.2(a), on its proper
construction, did not create an equitable interest or
give rise to an equitable charge in favour of Ta Lee …
there is no reference to “security”, “secured
interest”, “charge”, “caveatable interest”, or any
other language which would point to Ta Lee having an
There was a further problem with clause 7.2. The Court
also considered that clause 7.2 only gave the right to lodge
a caveat over the site, not over individual apartment lots
after the strata plan was registered. The Court declined to
imply such a term into the Loan Deed to give it business
efficacy, because the Loan Deed had business efficacy
The Court dismissed the appeal by Ta Lee with costs.
The decision is authority that a clause which gives the
‘right to lodge and maintain a caveat’ is in itself not
sufficient to support a caveat. The clause must expressly
‘charge’ the land with the obligation or create an
‘equitable interest’ or ‘caveatable interest’ in the land.
A good example of a clause which ‘charges’ the land is
clause 2.8 of the Contract for the Sale and Purchase of Land
If any of the deposit or the balance price is paid
before completion to the vendor or as the vendor
directs, it is a charge on the land in favour of the
purchaser until termination by the vendor or
completion, subject to any existing right.
This clause was sufficient to support the Caveat lodged
by Mr Antonios.
In this case, the ‘innocent party’ Mr Antonios prevailed
but only because the Loan Deed was defective. The defect had
serious consequences for the Lender in that the developer,
MV Developments went into liquidation in August 2015. As a
result of the decision, the Lender is an unsecured creditor
for its loan of $1.5 million together with interest.