Mortgagor’s collateral dvantage is not a clog
The appellant woolbrokers had lent the respondent andpound;10,000 with a floating charge over its undertaking. The loan agreement provided that, for five years, the appellants would have first refusal over all sheepskins sold by the company. The company paid off the loan, but the appellants claimed that they were entitled to continue to exercise their right of first refusal.
Held: The right of first refusal not part of the mortgage transaction; but was a collateral contract entered into as a condition of the company obtaining the loan. The appellants could therefore entitled to enforce it. Whilst courts are loathe to interfere with freedom of contract, they will intervene where evidence showed that terms imposed by a mortgagee are unconscientious. To do so, the courts will consider both the form and substance of the transaction.
Lord Parker of Waddington discussed the survival of the rule against a clog on an equity of redemption, saying that it was not objectionable for a mortgage to confer a collateral advantage upon a mortgagee: ‘The last of the usury laws was repealed in 1854, and thenceforward there was, in my opinion, no intelligent reason why mortgages to secure loans should be on any different footing from other mortgages. In particular, there was no reason why the old rule against a mortgagee being able to stipulate for a collateral advantage should be maintained in any form or with any modification. Borrowers of money were fully protected from oppression by the pains always taken by the Court of Chancery to see that the bargain between borrower and lender was not unconscionable. Unfortunately, at the time when the last of the usury laws was repealed, the origin of the rule appears to have been more or less forgotten, and the cases decided since such repeal exhibit an extraordinary diversity of judicial opinion on the subject. It is little wonder that, with the existence in the authorities of so many contradictory theories, persons desiring to repudiate a fair and reasonable bargain have attempted to obtain the assistance of the Court in that behalf. My Lords, to one who, like myself, has always admired the way in which the Court of Chancery succeeded in supplementing our common law system in accordance with the exigencies of a growing civilization, it is satisfactory to find, as I have found on analysing the cases in question, that no such attempt has yet been successful. In every case in which a stipulation by a mortgagee for a collateral advantage has, since the repeal of the usury laws, been held invalid, the stipulation has been open to objection, either (1) because it was unconscionable, or (2) because it was in the nature of a penal clause clogging the equity arising on failure to exercise a contractual right to redeem, or (3) because it was in the nature of a condition repugnant as well to the contractual as to the equitable right.’ and
‘The nature of the equitable right [to redeem] is so well known that, upon a mortgage in the usual form to secure a money payment on a certain day, it must be taken to be a term of the real bargain between the parties that the property shall remain redeemable in equity after failure to exercise the contractual right. Any fetter or clog imposed by the instrument of mortgage on this equitable right may properly be regarded as a repugnant condition and as such invalid. There are, however, repugnant conditions which cannot be regarded as mere penalties intended to deter the exercise of the equitable right which arises when the time for the exercise of the contractual right has gone by, but which are repugnant to the contractual right itself. A condition to the effect that if the contractual right is not exercised by the time specified the mortgagee shall have the option of purchasing the mortgaged property may properly be regarded as a penal clause. It is repugnant only to the equity and not to the contractual right itself. But a condition that the mortgagee is to have such an option for a period which begins before the time for the exercise of the equitable right has arrived, or which reserves to the mortgagee any interest in the property after the exercise of the contractual right, is inconsistent not only with the equity but with the contractual right itself, and might, I think, be held invalid for repugnancy even in a Court of Law.’
As to the doctrine of precedent: ‘To follow previous authorities, so far as they lay down principles, is essential if the law is to be preserved from becoming unsettled and vague. In this respect previous decisions of a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction are more binding in a system of jurisprudence such as ours than in systems where the paramount authority is that of a code. When a previous case has not laid down any principle, but has merely decided that a particular set of facts illustrates an existing rule, there are few more fertile sources of fallacy than to search in it for what is simply resemblances in circumstances, and to erect a previous decision into a governing precedent merely on this account. To look for anything except the principle established or recognized by previous decisions is really to weaken and not to strengthen the importance of precedent. The consideration of cases which turn on particular facts may often be useful for edification, but it can rarely yield authoritative guidance.’ The evolving nature of the equitable jurisdiction is ‘to mould the rules which they apply in accordance with the exigencies at the time’.
Lord Parker explained the decision in Bradley v Carritt: ‘The real question, in my opinion, was whether it [the clause in question] was inconsistent with or repugnant to the contractual right of the mortgagee [quaere, mortgagor] to have his property restored unfettered if he paid the money secured with interest as provided in the agreement, and the consequential equitable right to have the property so restored if he paid his money with interest and costs at any time. On this point there was room for a difference of opinion . . There is really no difficulty in the decision itself. It is merely to the effect that the case was within the principles of Noakes v Rice. Lords Macnaghten, Davey, and Robertson all thought that if the stipulations in question were binding after redemption the mortgagor would not get back his property intact; in other words, that the stipulation was repugnant both to the contractual right and the equity.’
Lord Mersey agreeing, said that the equitable doctrine prohibiting the imposition of a clog on the mortgagor’s right to redeem is ‘like an unruly dog, which, if not securely chained to its own kennel, is prone to wander into places where it ought not to be’.
Viscount Haldane, Lord Chancellor, said: ‘the other and wider principle remains unshaken, that it is the essence of a mortgage that in the eye of a Court of Equity it should be a mere security for money, and that no bargain can be validly made which will prevent the mortgagor from redeeming on payment of what is due, including principal, interest and costs. He may stipulate that he will not pay off his debt, and so redeem the mortgage, for a fixed period. But whenever the right to redeem arises out of the doctrine of equity, he is precluded from fettering it. This principle has become an integral part of our system of jurisprudence and must be faithfully adhered to.’
The issue for decision was: ‘What was the true character of the transaction? Did the appellants make a bargain such that the right to redeem was cut down, or did they simply stipulate for a collateral undertaking, outside and clear of the mortgage, which would give them an exclusive option of purchase of the sheepskins of the respondents. The question is in my opinion not whether the two contracts were made at the same moment and evidenced by the same instrument, but whether they were in substance a single and undivided contract or two distinct contracts.’ The agreement for a right to purchase the respondent’s sheepskins was a collateral bargain ‘the entering into which was a preliminary and separable condition of the loan’.
Viscount Haldane, Lord Parker
 AC 25,  UKHL 1
England and Wales
Cited – Noakes and Co Ltd v Rice HL 17-Dec-1901
Rule Against Clog on equity of Redemption
A mortgage of a leasehold public house contained a covenant with the mortgagee, a brewery, that the mortgagor and his successors in title would not, during the continuance of the leasehold term and whether or not any money should be owing on the . .
Explained – Bradley v Carritt HL 11-May-1903
Shares in a tea company had been mortgaged to secure a loan from a broker on terms that the mortgagor would seek to ensure that the mortgagee should thereafter have sale of the company’s teas. The mortgage contained a covenant that, if the company . .
Cited – Regina v Naviede CACD 21-Mar-1997
The defendant appealed from his conviction for dishonesty. He said that he should have allowed hi to represent himself as to certain aspect of his case, but to have legal representation for others.
Held: The judge was right to reject such a . .
Applied – Cityland and Property (Holdings) Ltd v Dabrah 1968
The mortgage secured a debt of pounds 2,900 owing by the mortgagor to the mortgagee. The mortgagor covenanted to pay the mortgagee pounds 4,553 by monthly instalments over a six year period. The return to the mortgagee was in the form of a premium . .
Cited – Brighton and Hove City Council v Audus ChD 26-Feb-2009
The claimant was the proprietor of a fourth legal charge on a title. It sought a declaration that a second charge in favour of the defendant was void as a clog on the proprietor’s equity of redemption. An advance secured by a first charge, also in . .
Cited – Warnborough Ltd v Garmite Ltd CA 5-Nov-2003
Warnborough (W) sold real property to Garmite (G), leaving the purchase price outstanding but secured by a mortgage in favour of W. G also granted W an option to repurchase the property. The issue was whether the option to repurchase was ‘a clog on . .
Cited – Warnborough Ltd v Garmite Ltd ChD 12-Jan-2006
The claimant sought specific performance under a contract for sale of two leasehold properties. The defendant claimed inter alia that the agreement worked as a clog on the equity of the properties. . .
Cited – Jones v Morgan CA 28-Jun-2001
The claimant appealed against an order refusing him enforcement an agreement for the purchase of a one half share in a property. The judge had found the agreement to be unconscionable.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. The judge had wrongly . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Constitutional, Contract, Equity
Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.189952