Robinson v Harman (1848) 1 Ex 850

Agreement to grant a lease; lessor did not have good title; measure of damages


Harman wrote to Robinson offering him a 21-year lease of a dwelling house in Croydon. He subsequently changed his mind and refused to complete the lease when he discovered the property was worth more than the agreed price. Robinson’s solicitor had enquired as to the nature of Harman’s title, and had been assured he was absolutely entitled to grant the lease. The property was actually vested in trustees and Harman was only entitled to a portion of the property. Robinson brought an action for damages.


Robinson claimed there had been an agreement to grant a good lease of the premises and in reliance on this he had incurred expenditure in the sum of £20 in preparation of the lease. Further, he claimed, because of Harman’s breach of the contractual agreement, Robinson had lost great gains and profits which would have otherwise accrued to him. Harman asserted that Robinson had full knowledge at the time of the agreement that Harman did not have capacity to grant the lease. Therefore, he contended, Robinson was not entitled to recover damages for the purported breach of an agreement which he knew Harman was not entitled to make. Harman paid £25 into court and as this exceeded Robinson’s expenses in preparation of the lease, claimed there was no further liability in damages.


Robinson successfully recovered damages for his expenses and for the loss of the bargain. Where a party agrees to grant a good lease in full knowledge that he does not hold the full title, the other party may recover damages which would so far as possible place him in the same position he would have been had the contract been performed.