Reading time: 5 minutes

A caveat is a Latin word meaning ‘warning’ or ‘caution’. It helps protect the rights of the party who lodged the caveat by ‘warning’ anybody searching the land titles register that there is another interest on the property. For example, a person buying land may lodge a caveat to prevent others from claiming title. 

Because a caveat prevents new mortgages or leases being added to the title, it restricts how you deal with the land. In this situation, you would need to remove the caveat. 

In Western Australia, the Transfer of Land Act 1893 (WA) (the Act) and Landgate, the land titles office, governs caveats. An owner can remove a caveat in Western Australia by either:

  1. withdrawal;
  2. action by the Registrar;
  3. action by the Commissioner of Landgate WA; or
  4. an act of the Supreme Court.

We unpack these below.

But First, the Basics

When talking about caveats, it’s difficult to avoid using some legal terminology. We’ve set out some of the basic terms below for reference.

Word Definition
Legal Interest A legal interest is when you have a legal title or right to something. When discussing property and caveats, a legal interest for the owner of the land is the right to legally enforce, possess and use the property. A caveator can hold either a legal or equitable interest.
Equitable Interest An equitable interest is a beneficial or financial interest. In property law, for example, a beneficiary of a trust that is holding land for the beneficiary will have an equitable interest in the land.
Caveator The caveator is the person who has registered the caveat (as opposed to the land owner).
Land Title Each state and territory has a central register of all land in the state showing the owner of the land. The land title is the official record. 
Show Cause Where a caveator is required to give a good reason as to why the caveat should remain on the land title.

1. Withdrawal

The caveator can withdraw the caveat at any time by submitting Form A6 -Withdrawal of Caveat to Landgate. Broadly speaking, this is the easiest way to remove a caveat, and you should always try to negotiate a withdrawal on a good faith basis.

In WA, there are specific withdrawal rules about caveats which prevent improper dealings. As the registered land owner, you can lodge a caveat to prevent improper dealings on your property by submitting Form C4 – Caveat (Improper Dealings). This stops registration of any documents that the owner would ordinarily need to sign, for instance, a mortgage or lease. This type of specific caveat must be lodged under all the names of the land owners and can only be withdrawn if all the owners show up in person to the Landgate office to verify their identities.

2. Action by the Registrar

As the registered land owner, you can serve notice on the caveator stating that their caveat will lapse within 21 days unless they take the following action before the notice period ends:

  • obtain an order from the Supreme Court extending the caveat’s operation; and
  • lodge a copy of the order with the Registrar.

The court then has the power to determine whether or not the caveat should be removed.

It is possible that by serving a lapsing notice on the caveator, the caveator may also decide to withdraw the caveat on its own. In this case, the notice can act as a warning to a caveator who has not withdrawn its caveat previously or to serve on a caveator who you have no connection with. 

After the caveat has been removed, the caveator cannot relodge the caveat unless they obtain leave of the court or with your consent.

3. Action by the Commissioner

The Commissioner of Titles can require a caveator to withdraw its caveat if they believe the interest no longer exists. If this occurs, the Commissioner can either:

  • Serve the caveator with notice requiring them to withdraw the caveat within 14 days; or
  • To commence proceedings in the Supreme Court for the caveator to “show cause” – that is, show a reason as to why the caveat should remain.

The Commissioner can either do this of their own accord or on the application of any person with an interest in the land — which includes beneficiary interests. For example, this could be a person who is a beneficiary of the land under a trust.

If the caveator doesn’t respond in 14 days, then the Commissioner can direct the Registrar to remove the caveat from the register and send notice of the removal to the caveator. 

4. Action by the Supreme Court

If a caveat has been lodged on your land and the caveator refuses to withdraw it for any reason, then you may apply to the Supreme Court of WA to show why the caveat should not be removed, and the Supreme Court will then make a decision.

Like all decisions which involve going to court, this should only be done as a last resort to save on costs. But if you need to remove the caveat urgently (for instance, to sell the land by a certain date), this avenue may best suit your circumstances. The court can make a decision either ex parte (i.e. without the caveator present) or otherwise as to how to deal with the caveat.

Key Takeaways

If there has been a caveat lodged on your property in WA which you want to have removed, there are a number of key points to consider:

  1. Can you negotiate the withdrawal of the caveat?
  2. If not, you can remove the caveat by either notifying the caveator or applying directly to the Supreme Court — pick the best method based on the urgency of the removal and purpose for removing the caveat.
  3. If the interest in the caveat no longer exists, the Commissioner also has the right to notify the caveator and ask the Registrar to remove the caveat.

Note: LegalVision does not assist with caveats. But we hope you find this article helpful!

Webinars

Redundancies and Restructuring: Understanding Your Employer Obligations

Thursday 7 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
If you plan on making a role redundant, it is crucial that you understand your employer obligations. Our free webinar will explain.
Register Now

How to Sponsor Foreign Workers For Your Tech Business

Wednesday 13 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Need web3 talent for your tech business? Consider sponsoring workers from overseas. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Advertising 101: Social Media, Influencers and the Law

Thursday 21 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Learn how to promote your business on social media without breaking the law. Register for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Structuring for Certainty in Uncertain Times

Tuesday 26 July | 12:00 - 12:45pm

Online
Learn how to structure to weather storm and ensure you can take advantage of the “green shoots” opportunities arising on the other side of a recession.
Register Now

Playing for the Prize: How to Run Trade Promotions

Thursday 28 July | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Running a promotion with a prize? Your business has specific trade promotion obligations. Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

Web3 Essentials: Understanding SAFT Agreements

Tuesday 2 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Learn how SAFT Agreements can help your Web3 business when raising capital. Register today for our free webinar.
Register Now

Understanding Your Annual Franchise Update Obligations

Wednesday 3 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
Franchisors must meet annual reporting obligations each October. Understand your legal requirements by registering for our free webinar today.
Register Now

Legal Essentials for Product Manufacturers

Thursday 11 August | 11:00 - 11:45am

Online
As a product manufacturer, do you know your legal obligations if there is a product recall? Join our free webinar to learn more.
Register Now

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Our Awards

  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards