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July 27, 2016 dls 0 Equity , Estoppel , Landlord and Tenant ,

References: [1866] LR 1 HL 129, [1866] 12 Jur NS 506


Coram: Lord Cranworth LC, Lord Wensleydale and Lord Westbury, Lord Kingsdown dissenting
Ratio: The Vice-Chancellor had held that two tenants of Sir John Ramsden, the owner of a large
estate near Huddersfield, were entitled to long leases of plots on the estate. They ostensibly held
the plots as tenants at will only, but they had spent their own money in building on the strength of
assurances, said to have been given to them by the landowners agent, that they would never be
disturbed.
Held: The decision was overturned. The difference of opinion was over an issue of fact, that is the
substance of what was said on the occasion when some tenants agreed to be tenants at lower rents
than were being paid by other tenants of Sir John Ramsden.
Lord Kingsdown, dissenting on the facts, said: The rule of law applicable to the case appears to me
to be this; if a man, under a verbal agreement with a landlord for a certain interest in land, or what
amounts to the same thing, under an expectation, created or encouraged by the landlord, that he
shall have a certain interest, takes possession of such land, with the consent of the landlord, and
upon the faith of such promise or expectation, with the knowledge of the landlord, and without
objection by him, lays out money upon the land, a Court of equity will compel the landlord to give
effect to such promise or expectation. This was the principle of the decision in Gregory v. Mighell 18
Ves. 328, and, as I conceive, is open to no doubt. Even if there were uncertainty as to the terms of
the contract, a court of equity could nevertheless interfere in order to prevent fraud but that it was
unclear what, in that case, the remedy should be. The choices were between the grant of a specific
interest in the land and the grant of a restitutionary remedy such as monetary compensation.
Lord Cranworth LC said: If any one makes an assurance to another, with or without consideration,
that he will do or will abstain from doing a particular act, but he refuses to bind himself, and says
that for the performance of what he has promised the person to whom the promise has been made
must rely on the honour of the person who has made it, this excludes the jurisdiction of Courts of
equity no less than of Courts of law.