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Published: Fri, 02 Feb 2018
Land Registration Act
a)C will pursue a claim in Proprietary estoppel to prove her interest in the land as there has been no legal transfer, this is most suited for C’s claim. A constructive trust is mostly used in matrimonial cases involving a family home and if successful C will just get a share of the equity, whereas a proprietary estoppel claim could result in C gaining the whole fee simple, his being a reason why Lord Walker advocated keeping the doctrines separate.
Proprietary estoppel arises where “it would be unconscionable for a party to be permitted to deny that which…he has allowed or encouraged another to assume to his detriment“ This comes in three principal parts, assurance, reliance and detriment. If these three are satisfied then the court will award a discretionary remedy. These three must be looked at “in the round” and are often interrelated, however for convenience they will be addressed separately.
Here, the assurance could take two forms. Either S said “if you stay working for me, I will make sure you’re all right”(A) or “if you stay with me, I will leave you my health clinic when I decide to retire”(B). C’s success will depend on which one was said, The judge will decide this based on the evidence.
A valid assurance must “relate to identified property owned by the defendant”, ghe statement must be linked to a property right. The statement in the present case could relate to anything from a pension to the whole fee simple. It is impossible to determine where it lies and whether it does relate to an identified property.
Furthermore, since Thorner v Major we ask is it reasonable for the claimant, in the light of all the facts, to rely on the assurance? “The question is whether his words and acts would reasonably have conveyed…an assurance that he would [inherit the farm]” In the present case, the assurance is ambiguous, it could lead to any result. There are many ways of making sure someone is “all right” when you retire. Thus it is not reasonable for C to rely on this as an estoppel generating assurance, and any detriment she may have incurred will be at her own risk.
If this was the statement made, C would have no intrerest in S’s property. She may be eligible for a restitutionary remedy based on quantum meruit, but this does not affect the interest in the property.
This statement clearly fulfils the requirement of being linked to a property right, S expressly offers the fee simple of the health clinic when he retires. Therefore it would be reasonable for C to rely on this assurance. However there has been troubles in the courts with regards to promises relating to a future right in property.
In Cobbe v Yeoman’s Row, Lord Walker stated that the claimant must believe that “the assurance on which he or she relied was legally binding and irrevocable”. In the present case, following this criteria, C’s claim would fail. C has no grounds to believe that the promise is legally binding and irrevocable. This seems to protect the right for people to change their mind regarding their promises
Thorner v Major changed the criterion, it must be reasonably understood by C that S is making a commitment. There is no problem with that in the present case, the promise is “clear and unequivocal” prima facie and in the context.
C has to show that she relied on this assurance to her detriment. Here the alleged detriment is, passing up the opportunity for a law degree, her enhanced role in the clinic with no extra pay including her renovations such as new computers and planning a new floor.
The courts have taken a wide view on what counts as detrimental, it is not just limited to financial detriment, it “must be approached as part of abroad inquiry as to whether repudiation of an assurance is or is not unconscionable”.
From Gillet v Holt, we know that loss of opportunity, and lower than usual wages do count as a detriment and it is obvious that by paying for improvements to the Heath Centre she is acting to her detriment. She has missed 9 years of potentially increased wages, and perhaps a lifetime of the advantages of a law degree. Furthermore it seems that she has improved the business with new computers with her own money, and is taking the role of someone who does or will soon own the property, evidenced by the planning permission application. This is a sufficient detriment to create unconscionably.
Reliance is inferred by the court if there is a clear assurance and subsequently a detriment. The onus is on the defendant to prove that the detriment was motivated by another factor. This is followed by Wayling v Jones which only looks for a “sufficient link” between the detriment and the assurance.
She clearly gave up the degree opportunity on reliance of the assurance, as it was a condition to the assurance; “if you stay working for me…”. Although the other detriments came up to 20 years after the initial assurance which may affect the “sufficient link”, it seems that but for the assurance C would not have done them. She replaced the deskswith a view of improving the property for herself when she is owner.
C does have a successful claim in proprietary estoppel if statement B was said. However the remedy here can range from nothing to the whole fee simple. In Jennings v Rice Walker LJ creates a formulation to guide the courts remedial discretion. In cases where the assurance and the detriment needed to secure the assurance are made clear “the court’s natural response is to fulfil the claimant’s expectations”. This case is one of those cases. S clearly states the assurance “ I will leave you my health clinic”, and the detriment needed “if you stay working with me [instead of getting a degree]”. Therefore the court will be likely to offer what was promised, which is the clinic.
b)Emily will base her claim for an equitable interest in The Firs on a constructive trust, as there has been no declaration of trust complying with the Land Registration Act 1925. nor would a resulting trust be appropriate as we do not know whether Emily(E) contributed towards the purchase price, nor did she contribute to the mortgage following Laskar v Laskar. Furthermore in Stack v Dowden it was agreed that a resulting trust should not be used in domestic cases such as this as it only takes account of one factor out of many.
The form E’s claim takes depends whether or not her name is on the land register title. If Satvinder is the only legal title holder then E will have to prove there is a common intention constructive trust by showing there was a common intention for E to have an interest and that she acted to her detriment based on this.
Here the courts look for “the result which reflects what the parties must be taken to have intended”. In Lloyds Bank v Rosset there were two ways of proving this intention. The first way is to show that “prior to acquisition” there was and “agreement or understanding” between the parties based on evidence of “express discussions”. This could be the case with Emily, as Satvinder did intend to put Emily on the land register title if he thought she could be on it, so it is likely they would have discussed it, however there is no explicit evidence for this.
In the second method the courts have to “rely entirely on the conduct of the parties” Which now following Oxley v Hiscock and Stack v Dowden relates to the “whole course of dealings” of the parties and not just to “contributions to the purchase price by the partner”. We do not know if E contributed to the purchase price or not, but Baroness Hale sets out that “many more factors than financial contributions” can amount to a common intention. In this case there is a common intention that Emily will get at least some interest in the property. The “arrangements…to meet the outgoings” are made equally, with S paying the mortgage and E paying the other bills, which was decided “at the outset”, which indicates their intentions at acquisition, even if E soon stopped paying the bills to look after the children, the intention is there. Additionally having children is also a factor which Baroness Hale points to. “Context is everything”, and in this particular context the household is run in a very equal way with both taking on important household responsibilities.
As equity will not assist a volunteer, Emily will need to demonstrate a detrimental reliance based on this common intention. As in Rosset and Stack, the same evidence for the intention can be the detriment. Detriment can be “material sacrifice by way of contribution to or economy in the general family expenditure”, which is definitely shown by Emily in paying the bills. A greater act of detriment is shown by her renovating the gardens with her own money. We need to consider if Emily’s conduct “could not reasonably have been expected…unless she was to have an interest in the house” Emily would not have renovated the garden, with her own money and time, if she was not to have any right in the property, therefore she has acted to her detriment.
As the parties have not expressly stated how the equity will be shared, Emily’s interest is “that which the parties intended”. Oxley v Hiscock has replaced the old quantification by financial contribution with “a share the count considers fair having regard to the whole course of dealing”. So in Emily’s whole course of dealing with the property with Satvinder, she has shown to have taken on household responsibilities (either paying bills or looking after the children) and has also spent her own time and money on renovations, while Satvinder paid the mortgage, therefore it seems from the “nature of their relationship” that they both equally share the responsibilities and thus a judge would probably award Emily 50% of the equity.
If Emily were the joint legal owner, “the presumption will be that equity follows the law”, i.e that Emily has 50% of the equity. As Emily wishes to show that she owns 75% of the equity, the burden is on her to prove that “the parties did intend their beneficial interests to be different from their legal interests”. This according to Hale is “unlikely” would require “very unusual” facts, such as in Stack v Dowden as one partner had paid much more towards the household, and both knew it, and also their finances were completely separate. Here although Satvinder’s and Emily’s bank accounts are separate, it is for a reason that does not relate the The Firs, it is to protect Emily if the business fails. Other than this all their other domestic dealings have been more or less equal in their responsibilities, as discussed above. Emily cannot argue that the garden renovations are evidence to skew the equity in her favour as this activity is “the most natural thing in the world” in a property jointly owned.
c) Firstly there must be a valid contract, the requirements for which are set out in the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (LP(MP)A). Here Tam and Satvinder have complied with the formalities. The documents are in writing and incorporate all the terms in each document identically if, as in this case, there is an exchange of contracts. Secondly the documents must be signed by both parties to the contract. However this does not mean that Satvider and Tam must sign both documents, it is sufficient that “each of the parties…have signed (at least) one of the documents incorporating all the terms expressly agreed”
As there has been a valid contract, Tam will be entitled to specific performance should Satvinder fail to perform and is regarded from this point as the equitable owner of the land inder the doctrine in Walsh v Lonsdale, where it is was held that as equity “regards that which ought to be done as done”, the situation is treated as if the land were conveyed and Satvinder is holding the land on bare trust for Tam.
Tam is elibable for specific performance of the contract as he is not a “volunteer”, he has supplied consideration, which is the ｣20,000 purchase price. Furthermore equity will only assits Tam with specific performance if he has come with “clean hands”, nor will the contract be valid if there is any evidence of misrepresentation. However there is no evidence to suggest that Tam had for example lied to Satvinder about the value of the land, in order to buy it at a very low price.
The court would order Satvinder to carry out the contract. So he would be required to transfer the deed to Tam. There must be a deed, which must be made clear that it is a deed, and validly executed as a deed. This is done by the deed being signed in the presence of a witness and it must be delivered as a deed.
As this transaction was made after the `1st October 2003, the land must be registered within two months, if not the sale is void. Although this contract was made 5 years ago, Tam does not need to register until there is “the transfer of a qualifying estate”, which is at the point the deed is made. Satvinder has made no deed yet so the two month time limit does not apply yet. Once the deed is conveyed, which Satvinder must do, Tam must resgister the land for the transfer to be effective in law.
Land Registration Act 1925
Land Registration Act 2002
Land Registration Rules 2003
Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989
Cobbe v Yeoman’s Row  UKHL 55
Commision for New Towns v Cooper  Ch. 259
Gissing v Gissing  A.C. 886
Greasley v Cooke  1 WLR 1306
Jennings v Rice  EWCA Civ 159
Laskar v Laskar  1 WLR 2695
Lloyd’s Bank v Rosset  1 AC 107
Oxley v Hiscock  3 All E.R. 703
Taylor Fashions v Liverpool Victoria  Q.B. 133
Thorner v Major  UKHL 19
Thorner v Major  UKHL 19
Wayling v Jones  69 P&CR 170
Gardner, “The Remedial Discretion in Proprietary Estoppel – Again”, 2006 LQR 492
Gardner, “The Remedial Discretion in Proprietary Estoppel ”, 1999 LQR 438
McFarlane and Robertson, “Apocalypse averted: proprietary estoppel in the House of Lords”, 2009 LQR 535
McFarlane and Robertson, “The Death of proprietary estoppel ”, 2008 LMCLQ 449
Bridge: Personal Property Law, 3rd Ed, OUP, 2002
Dixon, Modern Land Law, 6th Ed, Cavendish 2009
Grey & Grey: Modern Land Law, 5th Ed, OUP, 2009
Hanbury & Martin, Modern Equity, 17th Ed, Sweet & Maxwell, 2005
Lawson & Rudden, The Law of Property, 3rd Ed,, OUP 2002
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