Estoppel and property law

The following Property Disputes practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Estoppel and property law
  • The doctrine of proprietary estoppel
  • Assurance, promise or encouragement
  • Reasonable reliance
  • Detriment
  • Financial detriment
  • Non-financial detriment
  • Countervailing benefit
  • Unconscionable conduct
  • Statutory bars
  • More...

Estoppel and property law

This Practice Note discusses issue that arise in proprietary estoppel in a property context. For a general discussion of proprietary estoppel, see Practice Note: Proprietary estoppel.

The doctrine of proprietary estoppel

Proprietary estoppel is a means by which property interests can be affected or created, so as to make the assertion of strict rights unconscionable. The estoppel gives rise to ‘an equity’ in favour of the person who is entitled to assert the estoppel. Unlike other kinds of estoppel, it gives rise to a cause of action.

Proprietary estoppel arises where:

  1. an owner of land (D) makes an assurance or promise, or gives encouragement, to another party (C) to believe that they have or will enjoy some right or benefit over D’s property

  2. C reasonably relies on that assurance, promise or encouragement

  3. C suffers detriment as a result of its reliance

  4. then D seeks to take unconscionable advantage of C by denying them the right or benefit which they expected to receive

Although all these elements must usually be satisfied, it is wrong to treat them as rigidly independent requirements, because in any given case the elements may be inextricably intertwined.

The doctrine is not limited to ownership. In Hoyl Group v Cromer, the Court of Appeal confirmed that a landowner was entitled to a right of way over another’s land, relying on the equitable doctrine

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