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Beviss and Beckingsale
Emma Northover

Forced to Sell the Farm – Proprietary Estoppel

Posted by Emma Northover on September 23rd 2019 in AGRICULTURAL AND RURAL AFFAIRS , DISPUTES AND CLAIMS .

The recent cases on Proprietary Estoppel have once again brought this unusual topic into the news.  In these recent cases, the Courts have upheld claims by children of farmers and awarded them significant interests in the farms. 

In the first case, the Court of Appeal upheld the Judge’s decision to award the daughter £1.2 million after her 30 years of work on the farm.  Even though this meant that the farm, including the mother’s farmhouse, would need to be sold.  The Court weighed up the assurances made by the parents during her lifetime and the detriment suffered, against the fact that the mother would not be left “wanting”. 

In the second case, the eldest son was aware, after a time, that he would have to share the farm with one of his brothers.  The Judge found that the claim couldn’t be based on a quasi-contractual basis as it was too uncertain what he might receive.  The key therefore was what was fair in all of the circumstances.  In that case, the Judge considered 50% of the farm business and 40% of the land and buildings at the farm was an appropriate award for the eldest son.  The Judge acknowledged that this award would likely result in the farm being sold, and he dealt with the associated Tax consequences in his Judgment. 

The differences of award in these two cases show that each case will very much turn on its individual facts, and that where there is this element of judicial discretion, there will remain uncertainty as to the outcome of these types of cases.  However, it appears clear that the Courts will not be prevented from making the award which it sees fit, even if this means the farm, or a substantial part of it, will have to be sold.

If you, or anyone you know, would like advice in relation to an Estoppel claim, then please do not hesitate to contact our Mrs Emma Northover at eln@bevissandbeckingsale.co.uk or on 01404 548050.