Thomas v Thomas (1842) 2 QB 851; 114 ER 330

Consideration need only be legally not economically adequate.


Before he died, Mr Thomas said he wished for his wife to have the house they lived in for the rest of her life.  However, this was not written into his will. After he died, his executors, ‘in consideration of such promise’, agreed with Mrs Thomas that she would pay a peppercorn rent of £1 per year in return for being allowed to live in the house.  They later tied to dispossess her.


A valid contract must be supported by consideration. That is, the promisee must promise to do something in return for the promise of the other party. It was argued that there was no contract because Mrs Thomas, the promise, provided inadequate consideration as the rent was nothing like a commercial rent for the property. Mrs Thomas argued that her promise to pay rent and keep the house in repair was good consideration.


The executors statement did not create a contract as it only expressed their motive for entering into the agreement. However, the £1 rent was recognized as good consideration. Patteson J said (at 859):

Motive is not the same thing as consideration. Consideration means something which is of some value in the eye of the law, moving from the plaintiff:

Without consideration the transaction was merely a voluntary gift. However, by agreeing to pay rent in return for being allowed to stay in the property, Mrs Thomas had provided consideration, even though it was not economically adequate or anything like a commercial rent for the building. Therefore, the contract was enforceable.