Pritchard v Briggs [1980] Ch 338

Registered option to purchase land takes precedence over prior right of pre-emption


In the conveyance of a hotel, the vendors (husband and wife) retained certain lands. The conveyance provided that, for so long as the vendors and the purchaser of the hotel both lived, the vendors would not sell the retained land without first giving the purchaser the option to purchase it. The plaintiff was a tenant of the vendors. His lease contained an option to purchase the retained lands upon the death of both vendors. The third defendant, in terms of a receivership on behalf of the surviving vendor, sold the retained lands to the first and second defendants. Thereafter, the plaintiff served notice purporting to exercise his option to purchase the retained lands.


At first instance, the judge dismissed the plaintiff’s claim and held that the right of pre-emption in the retained lands exercisable by the first and second defendants created an interest in land which took precedence over the plaintiff’s option due to its prior registration.


The Court of Appeal allowed the plaintiff’s appeal. The first and second defendants right of pre-emption (which stemmed from the original conveyance of the hotel) did not confer on them a present or contingent interest in the retained land. The terms of the conveyance did not prevent the vendors from granting the plaintiff an option to purchase the land after their deaths and this option was an interest in land. This interest in land took priority over the prior registration of the right of pre-emption. The sale of the retained land by the third defendant whilst one of the vendors was still alive was subject to the option granted in favour of the plaintiff.

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