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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.

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Unlike promissory estoppel, proprietary estoppel is not limited to a defence.
An antidote to a lack of formality, a proprietary right against a land owner.
Denning MR in Moorgate Mercantile v Twitchings [1976]:
"when a man, by his words or conduct, has led another to believe in a particular state of affairs, he will not be allowed to go back on it when it would be unjust or inequitable for him to do so."
The modern approach in Taylors Fashions v Liverpool Victoria
Trustees (1979): Oliver J:
o Basis of the doctrine of proprietary estoppel is unconscionable dealing with land, rather than the application of technical rules.
o Four elements:
 1) Assurance (Representation)
 2) Reliance (on the Assurance)
 3) Detriment (due to Reliance)
 4) Unconscionability

Gillett v Holt [2001] per Robert Walker LJ: "the doctrine of proprietary estoppel cannot be treated as subdivided into three or four watertight compartments … the court must look at the matter in the round"
 C left school at 15 to work on and live in D's farmhouse,
accepted low pay, worked on the farm and did not search for other jobs for 38 years on the repeated assurance he would inherit the farm. D wrote C out of will and tried to force him out.
 C received the farmhouse, a substantial portion of the land and compensation.
1) Assurance/ Representation:
o There must be a representation or assurance made to the
Claimant, or an expectation that they have or will have rights in the defendant's land.
 May be express or implied from conduct.
o The assurance need merely be 'certain enough…given the context' for the parties to understand what was meant by it.
There is a lower threshold in a domestic context.
 Thorner v Major (2009) - Claimant was told in loose terms by landowner (cousin) that he would inherit the land. On the basis of promise C had worked farm for 30years unpaid. No valid will, farm passed on intestacy rules. C claimed estoppel.
 HoL held that express assurance not required. C
reasonably believed that an assurance had been given and reasonably relied on it.
 Similar facts in Suggitt v Suggitt with father/son. Son had not sought other work in reliance on promise.

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