Hutton v Warren (1836) 1 M & W 466
Whether custom could become an implied term of a lease where the lease is silent
Hutton was the tenant farmer of land owned by Warren. Warren gave Hutton notice to quit and insisted he continue to cultivate the land throughout the notice period. Hutton continued to farm the land during the last year of the tenancy expending his own labour and purchasing seed and manure for use on the land. On quitting the farm, Hutton sought a reasonable payment for the labour and expenditure bestowed on the farm, and Warren refused to pay.
Hutton contended it was customary upon the expiry of farming tenancies that the landlord should pay the out-going tenant farmer a reasonable sum for the cost of tillage, sowing and cultivating. He argued he had bestowed considerable labour and expense during the last year of the tenancy and on termination of the lease, he was prevented from enjoying the crops arising from his labour and, therefore, sought recompense as calculated by an independent land valuer. Warren argued the original lease contained no such term regarding any provision for an out-going tenant and if the lease was silent, there was no obligation to pay. Warren disputed there was any such custom in place and, even if there was, it had not been incorporated into the contract because the lease was silent on the matter.
Hutton was successful in his claim. The custom was by implication imported into the lease. Where a commercial contract is silent, extrinsic evidence of customary practice and usage is admissible and can be incorporated into the agreement. It was, therefore, an implied term of the lease that Hutton should recover a fair and reasonable price for the seeds and labour he bestowed on the land.