Foreign money invested in property – whether trust created or mere loan – caveat removed but sale monies paid into trust.

Oz Envision Development Pty Ltd & Anor v Yuan (11 October 2018) [2018] VSC 607 McDonald J.   

The facts were –

  • In or about 2012 the defendant transferred$5.01 m. to enable the first plaintiff to acquire two properties. 
  • One property was subdivided into three units. 
  • In 2016 a deed of arrangement was entered into between the first plaintiff and the defendant whereby funds from the sale of this land were to be paid to the second plaintiff to enable it to undertake property development.
  • Contracts of sale of the three units for a total of $2,665,000 were entered into. 
  • The defendant caveated over both properties claiming that the advance of monies gave rise to a caveatable interest pursuant to an implied or resulting trust.

The plaintiffs alleged that the funds were merely a loan and so gave rise to no caveatable interest. 

The defendant, who was a Chinese National, deposed that:

  • the purpose of the payment was to invest $5 m. in Australia, this being required for the purpose of seeking  Australian residency;
  • the director of the first plaintiff was so appointed because he held the required residency status for directorship of a company in Australia which the defendant did not;
  • there was no discussion as to a loan including as to interest and that his intention was “that the money I paid to the First Plaintiff meant that the properties purchased by the First Plaintiff were my properties”. 

McDonald J held –

  1. There was a serious question to be tried that a caveatable interest existed based on a resulting trust.  There was no written loan agreement or evidence of a verbal loan agreement, and this absence was consistent with the terms of the deed.  Financial evidence of a loan, produced by the plaintiffs, in particular unaudited balance sheets of some weight, was nonetheless inconclusive. [8], [10]-[11], [13], [17]
  2. However, the balance of convenience favoured removal of the caveats because they were having a significant adverse effect upon the first plaintiff’s business, were preventing completion of the contracts, and were affecting the rights of the innocent purchasers. [17]-[19]
  3. Nonetheless, the proceeds of sale would not be distributed in accordance with the deed but would be paid into trust or an interest bearing account (in the solicitors’ names) pending trial.  The argument that this was contrary to the implementation of the deed was overcome by the first defendant’s allegations that he, being illiterate in English, had been induced to execute the deed by fraudulent misrepresentation by the director of the first plaintiff about its terms. [20]-[21], [23], [25]

Comment:

  1. From a non-legal aspect this case is a manifestation of the common phenomenon of foreign money being advanced to buy Australian property on terms not clearly documented.
  2. His Honour did not spell out the law of resulting trusts, but where property is put into the name of a non-contributor, or one of a number of contributors,to the purchase price, it is generally presumed to be held by the registered proprietor on trust for the contributors in proportion to their contributions, eg:Piroshenko v Grojsman [2010] VSC 240 (in which the claim failed on the facts).
  3. However, money lent for the purpose of being applied towards the purchase price of land does not, on being so applied, entitle the lender to an estate or interest in the land, unless the parties intended that the lender should have security for the loan: Simons v David Benge Motors Pty Ltd [1974] VR 585. 

Registered mortgagee defeats caveat based on alleged trust – Whether repeat caveat

National Australia Bank Limited v Nilsen & Anor [2018] VSC 368 (2 July 2018) Kennedy J.

The chronology was –

  • The plaintiff had a registered mortgage over land of which the registered proprietor was Petrina Pavlic. 
  • She died, her son William was her sole beneficiary, he obtained letters of administration and a new loan from the plaintiff with the mortgage as security.  He defaulted and became bankrupt.
  • The first defendant, who was William’s current or former de facto partner,caveated claiming an implied, resulting or constructive trust.
  • In 2017 a consent order of the Family Court was made between her, William and his trustee in bankruptcy providing for the transfer of the property to her contemporaneously with payment of $550,000 by her by 5 October 2017, with liberty to the trustee to sell in default of such payment.  No payment was made.
  • The plaintiff initiated a sale of the land to a third party with settlement due in May 2018 but subsequently extended to 4 July 2018
  • On 4 June 2018 a judge ordered that caveat be removed.
  • On 8 June 2018 the defendant again caveated on the same grounds as the first caveat. 
  • The plaintiff commenced further removal proceedings under the Transfer of Land Act s. 90(3).  The defendant argued that she had an interest pursuant to the Family Court Order which was different from, and arose subsequent to, the interest relied upon for the first caveat (which had been based on alleged contributions).  Shealleged, without evidence, that the trustee in bankruptcy had agreed to extend the time for her to pay the money to obtain the land and that this ongoing indulgence gave rise to a trust.

Kennedy J ordered removal of the caveat, holding –

  1. There was no serious question to be tried.  The Family Court order did not create any interest in the land in circumstances where no money had been paid.  In any event the bank’s interest as registered mortgagee defeated any unregistered interest. [27]-[28]
  2. The following balance of convenience factors also favoured removal –
    • The interests of the innocent purchaser;
    • Delay in disposing of the property;
    • The caveator had not commenced proceedings to substantiate her claim;
    • If she had a cause of action the caveator could sue the bank for damages;
    • The caveator had not paid the money ordered by the Family Court and there was no evidence of her capacity to do so;
    • Sale was the best chance of reducing the amount of approximately $2.7 m. owed. [31]-[40]
  3. The plaintiff also argued that s. 91(4), which provided that a lapsed or removed caveat shall not be renewed by or on behalf of the same person in respect of the ‘same interest’, was breached. Her Honour did not deal finally with this argument but stated that the better view appeared to be that this section did not apply because the source of the second caveat was the Family Court Order which postdated the first caveat.

Comment:

  1. As to her Honour’s statement that “The Family Court order did not create any interest in the land in circumstances where no money had been paid as provided for in that order” –

There is authority that a Family Court order can create an interest in land: Bell v Graham [2000] VSC 142 at [19]. However her Honour’s statement is authority for a different view if no money has been paid pursuant to the order. Presumably, however, if it had been paid the payor would have a lien giving rise to a caveatable interest: see eg SixBruce Pty Ltd v Milatos [2017] VSC 784 (See my earlier blog here)

  1. The fact that the sources of the two caveats was different did not mean that they were not in respect of the same interest: Layrill Pty Ltd v Furlap Constructions Pty Ltd[2002] VSC 51 at [9].