When can the doctrines be used?
Friday, 13 December 2013
Land Law: Proprietary & Promisory Estoppel
Q: My father allowed a lady and her five children to live on his land and chattel house. It has been about 8 years and he has decided he wanted to make improvements. The "lady" has never paid rent. He asked the "lady" to leave and she took him to court claiming she made renovations to the home. The case was heard in court and she was awarded the house and my father remains the landowner. How is this possible??
A: He lost because of the doctrine of Proprietary Estoppel
Proprietary estoppel arises where:-
(a) the owner of land (O) induces, encourages or allows the Claimant (C) to believe that he has or will enjoy some right or benefit over O’s property
(b) in reliance upon this belief, C acts to his detriment** to the knowledge of O and
(c) O then seeks to take unconscionable advantage of C by denying him the right or benefit which he expected to receive
The leading case on the matter is Dillwyn v Llewelyn :
The father thought he had given his younger son land in Wales, in signing a memorandum and presenting it to him “for the purpose of furnishing himself with a dwelling-house”. The memorandum was not by deed. The son built his home on the land. When the father died, the elder son disputed his brother’s title.
It is just as easy to fall into the other category of estoppel; Promissory Estoppel.
Promissory Estoppel is when one party depends on the promise or conduct of another and acts in his/her detriment in reliance on that promise.
First established in: Hughes v Metropolitan Railway (1877)
Clearly laid down in: Central London Property Trust Ltd v High Trees House Ltd 
Fully restated and defined by Lord Denning in: Combe v Combe 
Proprietary estoppel can be used to take the owner to court, whereas, promissory estoppel can only be used as a defence when taken to court by the owner.
Equitable Estoppel: Possible merger of Proprietary & Promissory Estoppel
In Waltons Stores (Interstate) Ltd v Maher (1988), the Court handed down its most significant decision on the topic of estoppel. The significance of this case was that it consolidated promissory and proprietary estoppels into the single, and broader, principle of equitable estoppel!
Alan v El Nasr 
Detrimental reliance is not a requirement of promissory estoppel. It only needs to be established that the promisor has changed their position
Waltons Stores (Interstate) Ltd v Maher (1988)
However, … minor expenditure such as day to day living expenses or minor repairs will not qualify.