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EFFECT OF NOTICE ON PURCHASER OF AN EQUITABLE MORTGAGE

Dictum

This brings us to the subject of the equitable doctrine of “Notice.” It is usually said that a purchaser of the legal estate in any property for value and without notice has an “absolute, unqualified and unanswerable defence” to any claim of a prior equitable owner or person having a prior equitable interest in the same property (see Pilcher Vs Rawlings (1872) 7 Ch. App. 259 at 269 per James L.J.). Where, however, the purchaser, as here, has notice of a prior equitable mortgage in the property in which he seeks to take a legal estate he has a duty, by himself or by his vendor, to get rid of that prior equitable interest otherwise he is taking unnecessary risk.

– Idigbe JSC. Ogundiani v. Araba (1978)

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IN LEGAL MORTGAGE PROPERTY IS TRANSFERRED TO THE MORTGAGEE SUBJECT TO REDEMPTION

In a legal mortgage, title to the property is therefore transferred to the mortgagee subject to the proviso that the mortgage property would be reconveyed by the mortgagee to the mortgagor upon the performance of the conditions stipulated in the mortgage deed and upon payment of the debt at the time stipulated therein. In other words, the mortgagor is liable to repay the loan as stipulated; otherwise the mortgaged property is foreclosed. See BANK OF NORTH V. BELLO (2000) 7 NWLR (prt 664) 244, ADETONA V. ZENITH INTERNATIONAL BANK PLC (2011) 18 NWLR (prt 1278) 627 and ATIBA IYALAMU SAVINGS & LOANS LTD V. SUBERU (2018) 13 NWLR (prt 1637) 387 at 414.

— M.L. Shuaibu, JCA. FBN v Benlion (2021) – CA/C/31/2016

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EQUITABLE MORTGAGE FIRST IN TIME TAKES PRIORITY

I have earlier set out the peculiar factors and circumstances not least being that the appellant has paid part of the purchase price of ₦2.3m to the tune of ₦1.8m leaving a balance of ₦500,000.00 and has been put in possession of the disputed property. There is a binding agreement of sale of the 1st respondent’s interest in the said property between the appellant and the 1st respondent. The appellant has thereby acquired an equitable interest to the extent of the 1st respondent’s interest in the equity of redemption and this is the interest which the mortgagor, the 1st respondent has had at all material times. The 1st respondent cannot give what it hasn’t got. And as I intimated earlier any attempt to pass the legal estate in the disputed property to the appellant will be of no effect and void not voidable because the 1st respondent as the mortgagor has bound itself to convey the legal estate to the mortgagee whenever it is called upon to do so until the principal, interest and costs are duly paid on the mortgage. See: Barclays Bank of Nigeria Ltd v. Ashiru and Anor. (supra) per ldigbe JSC, and Jared v. Clements (1903) 1 Ch. 428. Besides, the appellant is acquainted with notice of the mortgage and so cannot take priority to the 2nd respondent’s equitable mortgage which is first in time. – Chukwuma-Eneh JSC. Yaro v. Arewa CL (2007)

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DEFINITION OF MORTGAGE

A mortgage is defined as creation of an interest in a property defeasible, that is, annullable upon performing the condition of paying a given sum of money with interest at a certain time. Thus, the legal consequence of the above is that the owner of the mortgaged property becomes divested of the right to dispose of it until he has secured a release of the property from the mortgagee.

— M.L. Shuaibu, JCA. FBN v Benlion (2021) – CA/C/31/2016

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How Equitable Mortgage is created?

Now, equitable mortgages are created inter alia, (1) by mere deposit of title deeds with a clear intention that the deed should be taken or retained as security for the loan; (2) by an agreement to create a legal mortgage and (3) by mere equitable Charge of the mortgagor’s property. In passing we think that it should be pointed out that the last of the three classes of equitable mortgage i.e. that which is created merely by a charge on the property intended as security for the loan differs considerably from the first two in respect of the remedies it confers; and the property so charged is appropriated only to the discharge of a debt or some other burden in respect of which the property stands charged.

– Idigbe JSC. Ogundiani v. Araba (1978)

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READY BUILT HOUSES TO BE PAID FOR INSTALLMENTALLY ARE MORTGAGES

I will have to state clearly that the statutory corporations, with authority to build houses and sell on terms to people who otherwise would be unable to build on their own, are in someway mortgages to the buyers. But instead of outright loan to the buyer they provide ready built houses to be paid for on certain terms. The terms range according to the laid down policy of each corporation. Some require a certain percentage of the full price to be paid as first deposit and the remainder to be paid in certain instalments. They are in some cases flexible as to time but in most cases spell out when and how to liquidate the full price. All these terms are without prejudice to mortgagor’s right to pay the full price outright; or if he defaults for just a few days or even weeks in a reasonable way he still retains his equity of redemption, i.e. even if the contractual date had passed. Howard V Harris (1683) 1 Vern 190; Spurgeon V Collier (1578) 1 Eden 55; Jennings V Ward (1705) 5 Vern 520. What found its way into our statutes is no more than the historical Common Law Practice of protecting the weak borrowing from the overbearing lender. Once the lender (mortgagee) was adequately protected to recover his money in full plus interest at reasonable time even if somewhat outside the contracted period the mortgagor’s equity of redemption should not be vitiated. What is essentially a mortgage in this case is dressed up as a conveyance with the right to withhold possession from the mortgagor until he liquidated the debt; but should he fail to liquidate by unreasonably defaulting in payment and was in arrears for long the mortgagee’s right of foreclosure should also not be vitiated.

— Belgore, JSC. A.S.H.D.C. v Emekwue (1996) – SC. 282/1989

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OBJECTION TO MANNER OF SALE WILL NOT STOP A MORTGAGOR FROM SELLING

It is a well established principle of law that a mortgagee will not be restrained on the exercise of his power of sale merely because the mortgagor objects to the manner in which the sale is being arranged or because the mortgagor has commenced a redemption action in court. (See Adams v. Scott (1859) 7 WR 213). But the mortgagee will be restrained if the mortgagor pays the amount claimed by the mortgagee into court. (See Hickson v. Darlow (1883) 23 Ch.D. 690).

— Udoma, JSC. Nig. Housing Dev. Society v. Mumuni (1997) – SC 440/1975

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