In Camiveo Limited v Dunnes Stores, the Supreme Court, confirming earlier judicial precedent, held that notwithstanding the obligation of first registration, once a valid deed of assurance has been executed and the purchase money paid, the purchaser, has "an inchoate right incapable of being defeated and only waiting for an official duty to be performed to become an absolute estate"

The case concerned the interpretation of s.25 of the Registration of Title Act 1964 ("the 1964 Act"), (as substituted by s.128 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 ("the 2009 Act") providing that:-

"25.— A person shall not acquire an estate or interest in land in any case in which registration of ownership of the land is or becomes compulsory under section 23 or 24 unless the person is registered as owner of the estate or interest within 6 months after the purported acquisition or at such later time as the Authority (or, in case of refusal, the court) may sanction in any particular case, but on any such registration the person's title shall relate back to the date of the purported acquisition, and any dealings with the land before the registration shall have effect accordingly."

Dunnes Stores was a tenant in two shopping centres in Galway which were acquired by Camiveo. Camiveo took action in the High Court against Dunnes Stores to recover unpaid rent and service charges. Dunnes Stores disputed Camiveo's title to the properties and its right to demand payment. Dunnes Stores argued that s.25 prevented the interest of a landlord from passing to a purchaser unless and until first registration had been completed and consequently did not have a right to collect these payments until first registration was completed.

The Supreme Court interpreted Section 25 of the 1964 Act (as amended by the 2009 Act) as follows:-

  • It is the actual registration which is required to occur within six months or such extended time as may be provided. The time of the application for first registration is not relevant.
  • There is nothing in the section which requires a party to make an application for an extension of time. The Property Registration Authority ("the PRA") can sanction in its discretion an extension of time although it should assess whether it is appropriate to extend time in any particular case where the application is made outside the six month period.

In this case, a letter from the PRA confirmed that it did not have a general policy of refusing applications for first registration simply because the application is made outside the six month period. It was prepared to consider the application in this case on its merits even though it was not made within the six month period.

The Supreme Court then considered the general law in relation to registration in Ireland, which has consistently adopted the principle underlying the registration of title system that it is only the registered owner who is recognised and which has been the subject of "clear and consistent judicial determination over the years".

The Supreme Court restated the law that although no estate or interest in land passes until first registration has been effected, a purchaser has a right or equity to ownership of the land which is valid against anyone other than a registered transferee for value. Camiveo had an unregistered right in the lands which was good against all persons including the vendor of the lands to Camiveo. Camiveo was entitled, as against the vendor, to receive the rent, as the vendor had divested itself of the property.

On this basis the Supreme Court concluded that "such inchoate right carries with it an entitlement to enforce any of the rights of a landlord under a lease of the lands in question" and Camiveo was entitled to demand payment of rent and service charge from Dunnes Stores due under the leases.

This is a welcome decision for any investors seeking to enforce leases affecting investment properties that they have acquired but have not yet been registered as owner of the properties because of the practical administrative delays in the PRA arising from the introduction of country wide compulsory first registration by the 2009 Act.

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