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Estoppel and Promissory Estoppel

  • This is an equitable legal means used by the judiciary to prevent injustices.
  • Say e.g. a landlord agrees to his tenant leaving prior to the expiration of the tenancy without the need to pay the remaining rent..
  • Under the strict rules of the tenancy agreement the landlord is entitled to claim the unpaid rent for the remaining tenure.
  • The landlord would be prevented from so enforcing the contract by estoppel.
  • An agreement requires at least three things to be valid: offer acceptance and consideration.
  • The offer and acceptance is straight forward, "I wish to leave early will you release me from the contract?" "Yes!"
  • The consideration is normally rent, but in this case it is "acting in reliance upon the landlord's promise to allow the tenant to leave prematurely without paying rent otherwise due": 1.They tenant subsequently seeks alternative accommodation  and 2. By giving up existing accommodation and paying rent elsewhere acts to his detriment.
  • The doctrine of promissory estoppel is applied thus:
  • The landlord will be estopped (prevented) from enforcing his claim for the rent to which the landlord might otherwise be entitled.
  • This doctrine of Promissory Estoppel is founded on three core elements (Why is it always three?): 1. The landlord's promise, representation and or assurance made to the tenants 2. Reliance upon it by the tenants 3. The tenants suffered loss or detriment as a consequence of the tenants reasonable reliance.
  • In these circumstances such agreements are often oral.
  • Evincing a claim need not necessary require documentary evidence. Parol Evidence permits spoken promises to be admissible evidence and in civil cases is based on the balance of probabilities: 51% i.e. more likely than not, unlike criminal evidence, "beyond reasonable doubt."
Published: 5 November 2013 Last Updated: 17 November 2021