Archive for category The Land Act 1958

Beware lodging caveat ‘without reasonable cause’

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Section 118 of the Transfer of Land Act 1958 and s.74P of the Real Property Act 1900 (NSW)  provide for payment of compensation to a party who has suffered “damage” (TLA) or “pecuniary loss” (RPA) where a person lodges a caveat “without reasonable cause”. In New South Wales s.74P also extends to a caveator who, without reasonable cause, refuses or fails to withdraw a caveat after being requested to do so. See: s.74P(1)(c).

As to the meaning of “reasonable cause” in Bedford Properties Pty Ltd v Surgo [1981] 1 NSWLR 106 Wootton J said at 109:

The drastic nature of the power is relevant in considering what is “reasonable cause” for its use, just as the dangerous character of a thing is relevant to deciding what is reasonable care in handling it. Before exercising such a power, a person can reasonably be expected to get proper advice, and be reasonably sure of his ground. If he does not, he may find that he has acted at his peril. This is all the more so when he knows, as Mr Richards knew, and indeed intended, that his action will prevent an important transaction involving a large sum of money.

In the recent case of  Arkbay Investments Pty Ltd v Tripod Funds Management Pty Ltd [2014] NSWSC 1003  Robb J said that it was “salutary to record” Wootton J’s observations in deciding that a caveat had been lodged without reasonable cause and had caused pecuniary loss.

In Arkbay there was no evidence that when the caveator lodged the caveat it had an honest belief on reasonable grounds that it had an interest in the relevant property. His Honour held that the lodging of the caveat had caused loss by reason of a delay in the settlement date for sale of the property.

At [17] Robb J said:

“The onus is on the plaintiffs to show that the caveator acted without reasonable cause. For there to be reasonable cause it is not necessary that the caveator actually have a caveatable interest, but it is necessary that the caveator have an honest belief based upon reasonable grounds that the caveator has such an interest. Wootton J in Bedford Properties noted at 108  that an honest belief on the part of the caveator based on reasonable grounds may not be sufficient to provide a reasonable cause for lodging or maintaining a caveat, if the caveat is lodged “not for the protection of his interest but for an ulterior motive and without regard to its effect on transactions to which the caveator had agreed.”

My  clerk can be contacted via this link http://www.greenslist.com.au/

From 31 July 2014, liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation 

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Parties can agree to higher standard than that imposed by s.52 of Retail Leases Act

 

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Section 52 of the Retail Leases Act 2003 implies into a “retail premises” lease an obligation on landlords to maintain “in a condition consistent with the condition of the premises when the retail premises lease was entered into” things such as the “structure of, and fixtures in” the premises, “plant and equipment at retail premises” and “the appliances, fittings and fixtures provided under the lease by the landlord relating to the gas, electricity, water drainage or other services”.

When is the lease entered into if an option is exercised? Is it the date when the lease commenced or when the new lease arising by reason of the option being exercised commences?

In Ross-Hunt Pty Ltd v Cianjan Pty Ltd[1] the Tribunal held that that the relevant date was the date that the new term commenced following the exercise of an option and not the commencing date of the first term of the lease.

A further question then arose about whether a provision in a lease that imposes a higher standard on a landlord than that imposed by s.52 is void under s.94 on the ground that it is contrary to or inconsistent with s.52.

In Savers INC (ARB 075 452 185) v Herosy Nominees[2][the Tribunal held that if parties wished to contract for more than was provided for under s.52 they were free to do so; in that case the leases (and earlier leases to which the landlords and tenant were parties) contained terms that obliged the landlords to undertake repairs to the premises and imposed obligations that were more onerous than those imposed by s.52.

In the recent decision of Di & Li Australia Pty Ltd v Jin Dun Pty Ltd[3] Senior Member Riegler rejected an argument that lease provisions which imposed more onerous obligations on the landlord than those imposed by s.52 were void. The Senior Member said:

“[20] In my view, s 52 does not prohibit the parties from agreeing to extend the Landlord’s obligations to repair or maintain its installations. The situation might be different if s 52 was expressed as a provision limiting a landlord’s obligation to maintain plant and equipment to a condition consistent with its condition when the lease was entered into. However, the provision does not expressly limit a landlord’s obligations but rather, imposes what I consider to be a minimum obligation on a landlord.

[21] There is nothing inconsistent or contrary to s 52 for the parties to increase that obligation and in the present case, it made eminent sense for the Landlord to continue to have that obligation upon renewal, given that it held the reversionary interest in the plant and equipment.

Further, it is not the case that s 52 is devoid of any limitation. In particular, sub-section (3) sets out various circumstances which limit its operation.

Those circumstances do not include limiting the comparator to the commencement of the Lease.

In my opinion, it was open for Parliament to have limited the operation of s 52(2) of the Act to the current term by stating words to the effect that a lease is not to include a term which requires the landlord to maintain plant and equipment, other than in a condition commensurate with the condition of the plant and equipment at the commencement of the lease.

However, the section is not expressed in such prohibitory terms, nor is it expressed to indicate any intention on the part of the legislature to ‘cover the field’ in respect of a landlord’s repair liability.”

 

[1] [2009] VCAT 829.

[2]2011] VCAT 1160

[3] [2014] VCAT 349

 

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Tenants beware of onerous “make good” obligations

 

There is a translation key(widget)  on this blog for ease of reading for non-English speaking members of the public or professionals. http://roberthaybarrister.blogspot.com.au/

 

Lawyers acting for tenants often fail to advise their clients about the burden of the repair obligations imposed by the lease during the term of the lease and the “make good” obligations at the end.

These obligations can be particularly onerous in Victoria because of  cases such as Joyner v Weeks [1891] 2 QB 31.

In Joyner the landlord brought an action against the tenant upon a covenant in a lease that the tenant would leave the leased premises in repair at the end of the lease.

When the lease came to an end the premises were out of repair. The landlord proved before the official referee that the cost of putting the premises into repair was £70; however, the tenant claimed the landlord was entitled only to nominal damages because he had leased the premises to a third party who had covenanted to pull down and rebuild the premises and also to pay a higher rent than the defendant had paid and consequently there was no loss.

The official referee gave the landlord a farthing damages, and gave the tenant all the costs of the action; however, on appeal the Court of Appeal held that the measure of damages was the amount which the landlord proved to be the fair and reasonable sum necessary to put the premises into the state of repair in which he was entitled to have them left, being £70.

What is often referred to as the “rule in Joyner v Weeks” is not an absolute rule, but it is a prima facie rule. The effect of Joyner has been abrogated in some States but not in Victoria. Joyner was applied by the Full Court of the Federal Court in Bowen Investments Pty Ltd v Tabcorp Holdings Ltd (2008) FCR 494[1].

In a case similar to Joyner, the Supreme Court of Victoria  recently considered the consequence of a tenant failing to comply with a make good obligation that required it to maintain the premises in good repair during the currency of the lease and to deliver them up to the lessor at the end of the lease in as good condition as they were at the commencement of the lease, fair wear and tear excepted. The tenant breached the obligation to maintain the premises in good repair and failed to deliver them up at the end of the lease in good condition. The landlord conducted a complete refurbishment of the premises, including both internal and external reconfiguration and extensions. The tenant argued that the landlord’s refurbishment rendered the precise works necessary to meet its make good obligations theoretical or irrelevant and therefor the landlord had suffered no loss. Hargrave J rejected the tenant’s arguments and held that the landlord was entitled to recover the cost of performing the precise works which were reasonably necessary to bring the premises up to the state that they would have been in had the tenant complied with its make good obligations during and at the end of the lease. See: Fenridge Pty Ltd v Retirement Care Australia (Preston) Pty Ltd [2013]  VSC 464

 

[1] The appeal was dismissed by the High Court in High Court Tabcorp Holdings Ltd v Bowen Investments Pty Ltd (2009) 236 CLR 272.

 

My clerk can be contacted via this link for bookings  http://www.greenslist.com.au/

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