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Orgee v Orgee [1997] EWCA Civ 2650

LAND LAW – PROPRIETARY ESTOPPEL – CERTAINTY OF INTEREST

Facts

The defendant agreed to farm the claimant’s land on the understanding that he would be given an agricultural tenancy, and bought tools and stock in reliance on this understanding. However, the tenancy never materialised as the parties never agreed the terms (including rent). In response to claim for possession, the defendant claimed that he was entitled to a tenancy due to proprietary estoppel.

Issues

A person will have an inchoate ‘equity’ in land if they can establish proprietary estoppel. Establishing this requires proof that the land-owner made an unequivocal representation that they had a proprietary interest, which they relied on to their detriment such that it would be unconscionable to renege on the representation. The inchoate equity that results from proprietary estoppel can be satisfied by the court using a range of remedies: whatever remedy would do the minimum amount of justice in the case.

The issue in this case was the degree of certainty which was required as to the proprietary interest the defendant believed himself to be entitled to.

Held

The Court of Appeal held in the claimant’s favour.

The Court noted that the maximum extent of what can be granted to satisfy the inchoate equity is what the defendant believes himself to be entitled to. It followed from this that it was not enough that the defendant merely believed himself to be entitled to a tenancy. Rather, the defendant must show that his belief was sufficiently concrete and detailed to allow the court to give effect to it.

In this case, the defendant’s belief was insufficiently concrete: he had no expectations as to the terms of the lease or the rent to be paid which the court could put into effect.


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