The Legal Language – Caveat emptor

27 April 2022

Have you ever read something and thought, “I’m not sure what that means” or ‘is that really correct”? Welcome to our series of quickfire interviews that attempt to unravel those interesting words and phrases.

In this edition, we speak to Property Partner Tim Kelly, who talks to us about the phrase he finds interesting, Caveat emptor.

Caveat emptor

What phrase have you chosen and what does it mean?

Caveat emptor is the Latin terminology for ‘let the buyer beware’.

Why do you like this phrase?

While only two Latin words, they have an extensive history as to their meaning and application in the common law system in Australia.

What’s been the most interesting use of this phrase that you have come across?

The phrase is utilised in numerous contracts. There are present changes in some parts of the law enacted to overcome many of the protections given to a seller by the phrase and its long-standing meaning in order to provide protection to consumers who purchase, whether property or goods.

When did you first come across this phrase in a legal context?

It is one of the first legal phrases that a budding lawyer will encounter, whether at university or even prior to university, if you are a purchaser.