Sledmore v Dalby (1996) 72 P & CR 196 CA (Eng)
LAND LAW – PROPRIETARY ESTOPPEL – REMEDIES
The claimant leased her house to her daughter and son-in-law (the defendant). The claimant represented to the defendant that the house would belong to them. After the daughter died, the defendant lived in the house rent-free with his children, though after a time their residency became infrequent. The claimant tried to regain possession of the house after she fell into dire financial straits. The defendant resisted possession on the grounds of proprietary estoppel.
A person will have an inchoate ‘equity’ in land if they can establish proprietary estoppel: that the land-owner made an unequivocal representation of proprietary entitlement to an individual, which that individual relied on to their detriment, such that it would be unconscionable for the land-owner to renege on his assurance. The court has a wide discretion as to what remedy to grant to satisfy this equity: whatever is necessary to do the minimum justice required.
The issue in this case was what factors may be considered when determining what the minimum justice of the case requires, and whether the court is entitled to grant no remedy at all.
The Court of Appeal held in the claimant’s favour. When determining how to satisfy the equity, the court held the following factors relevant: the time which had passed since the equity arose, the fact that the defendant made little use of the property, and the fact that the claimant truly needed the property.
Taking these into account, no remedy needed to be granted to the defendant to do minimum justice in this case. This meant that the defendant had no proprietary interest with which to resist the possession claim, and the claimant could be granted possession of the house.
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