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Proprietary Estoppel Notes

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This is an extract of our Proprietary Estoppel document, which we sell as part of our GDL Land Law Notes collection written by the top tier of Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students.

The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our GDL Land Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:

Revision: Land

[INFORMAL ACQUISITION: PROPRIETARY ESTOPPEL]
"Estoppel" - old English law concept where someone is stopped from going back on their promise where it would be unconscionable to do so

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Different from 'Promissory Estoppel' in Contract - much stronger: can be used as a sword to create rights - not just a shield to defend a claim: relates to property rights and doesn't just relate to a possible contract situation, you need detriment for proprietary estoppel

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Commenced in the modern day in leading case of Ramsden v Dyson o

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Subsequently in Wilmott v Barber

Requirements set out in these cases - the 'probanda'

1. C (claimant) must have made a mistake about his rights

2. C must have spent money or done some act because of the mistake

3. O must be aware of his own rights

4. O must also be aware of C's rights

5. O must have encouraged C, either directly or indirectly, by not asserting his own rights

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Historically you had to fit your claim within this strict straightjacket - now more flexible

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Another classic case - Dillwyn v Llwlyn, 1862 - imperfect gift perfected through estoppel : son relied on father's promise of a farm on which he could build

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More modern case - Inwards v Baker - 1965 - Son had equity by estoppel to stay on the land - Denning - 'the court will not allow that expectation to be defeated, when it would be inequitable to do so'

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Denning says it is binding on a 3rd party who has notice

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Remedy: effectively a licence for life

Over time - debate as to whether all 5 probanda had to be satisfied

1 Revision: Land

[INFORMAL ACQUISITION: PROPRIETARY ESTOPPEL]
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E.g.Crabb v Arun District Council: Despite not strictly complying with the 1 st probanda - the court held that the elements for an estoppel were present

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More modern cases have shown more flexibility than the 5 probanda in Wilmott v Barber: o

Taylor's Fashions Ltd v Liverpool Victoria Trustees Ltd: simplified the test - Oliver J acknowledge that the probanda should not necessarily be seen as strict rules

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1st instance case but accepted as the law: don't have to fit your case in the preconceived formula in Wilmott - main principle in unconscionability.

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'whether, in all the circumstances of the case, it was unconscionable for the defendant to seek to take advantage of the mistake which, at the material time, everybody shared'

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Principle of the decision in Gregory v Mighell

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No specific requirement that the landlord should know or intend that the expectation which he has created or encouraged is one to which he is under no obligation to give effect

Elements of Estoppel

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Not clear exactly when estoppel will apply - based on equitable principle

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Robert Walker LJ in Gillett v Holt: No watertight compartments: must look at all the circumstances

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However, claimant must satisfy several requirements to make a claim based on estoppel - unconscionability plays an underlying 'unifying' role (per Lord Walker, Cobbe)

1. There must be a representation , expectation or assurance

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Differences btw commercial and family cases

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Recent examples (both HL):

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Cobbe (2008) : makes it difficult to use estoppel in commercial context

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Thorner v Major: estoppel still strong in family cases

Crabb v Arun DC: quasi-commercial example in easement situation - see above - also shows that estoppel can arise when someone promises someone else that they will have a future right 2

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