• Proprietary estoppel may be unable to be made out where the four criteria are established if it would be unfair to do so in equity.

Facts of the case:

  • C leased a property to D and his wife and assured them that the house would belong to them following C’s death.
  • D, in relying on this assurance, acted to his detriment and undertook restoration work on the property.
  • Following D’s wife’s death, D lived in the property with his children without paying rent.
  • Some time after this, D and his children only occasionally stayed in the property.
  • C sought possession of the property due to a poor financial situation, however D refused on the basis of proprietary estoppel

Issues in Sledmore v Dalby [1996]:

  • The issue in this case was whether D had a valid proprietary estoppel claim, even though he established the four factors.

Court of Appeal held:

  • The CA found in favour of the C.
  • Even though the four criteria for proprietary estoppel had been established, in order to ‘satisfy the equity’ the court had to do what is necessary for the minimum justice required.
  • On all of the facts, no remedy could be granted to D to do minimum justice in this case, and as such he had no proprietary interest in the property: the court stated there were a number of factors as to why this was the case. (1) There was a significant period of time which had passed since the equity arose, (2) D’s presence at the property was infrequent, (3) and C actually required the property due to her financial situation- C did not.

Roch LJ

  • [17] “In the present case the respondent clearly has assumed that he will be allowed to stay in this house for the rest of his life rent free. In my judgment this is a case where the respondent has to be content with something less than his expectations.”
  • [18] “it is no longer inequitable to allow the expectation created in the respondent’s mind… to be defeated… The respondent has lived rent free in this accommodation for over 18 years. During that time the insurance of the property has been paid for by the Sledmore family and the property has been reroofed at their expense. The use made by the respondent of the house at the time of the trial was minimal and it is clear that there was accommodation for him elsewhere. He is a man in employment and therefore capable of paying for his accommodation. Whilst the respondent has lived in this house his elder daughter has married and left home and his younger daughter has reached the age of 27 and is able to maintain herself”
  • [18] “the appellant is vulnerable in that she is liable to lose her present accommodation and that she has a pressing need for this house which is her property.”