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Parker v Clark [1960] 1 WLR 286

Family agreement to share home; whether intention to create legal relations

Facts

The Clarks were an elderly married couple. Mrs Parker was Mrs Clark’s niece, and Mr Clark suggested she and her husband move into their home with them. Mr Parker supported the idea but expressed concern that it would mean their selling their own house. Mr Clark wrote to Mr Parker stating the Clarks would bequeath their home to Mrs Parker, her sister and her daughter on their death. The Parkers sold their home and moved in with the Clarks. The Clarks told the Parkers the arrangement was not working, and they would have to move out. The Parkers brought an action for breach of contract.

Issues

The Parkers argued the agreement was contractual in nature, and was intended to be legally binding. In reliance on it being a legally binding agreement, the Parkers sold their home and shared the running costs of the Clarks’ home. They contended the Clarks were in breach of this agreement by wrongfully giving them notice to quit. The Clarks denied the existence of any agreement. Even if there had been an agreement, it was insufficient to satisfy s40(1) Law of Property Act 1925 because it was not in writing. They also claimed the terms of the purported agreement were too vague to form a valid contract.

Held

The Parkers were successful in their claim. The language used in the letters and the surrounding circumstances indicated that both parties intended the agreement to have legal force. Mr Clark’s letter was sufficient to satisfy s40(1) Law of Property Act 1925 and amounted to a contractual offer. The Parkers were entitled to damages for the loss of the prospect of inheritance and the loss of the value of the benefit of living in the house.


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