We have seen another reported case concerning a farm and proprietary estoppel in the last few weeks.
In the case of Dobson v Griffey  EWHC 1117 (Ch), Jacqueline Dobson (JD) and Matthew Griffey (MG) lived together at a farm which was purchased by MG and in his sole name.
MG bought the farm for £660,000 in 2007 and in March last year it was sold for £967,500. JD claimed half the profit saying there was an express understanding that the farm would provide them both with a home for life. She says MG promised her during lunch at a local pub that he would split the property with her.
The Court held that there had never been agreement to share the property. MG had paid for the farm, mortgaged it and financed a renovation project. The Court did accept that JD had undertaken a lot of work to the property but she had done so in the hope that she had a long term future with MG. It was held there was no commercial deal.
Quite interestingly the Court did accept JD had some kind of expectation that she would be able to live in the farmhouse so long as she wished but the work she put into the property was not found to have been done on reliance on those assurances.
This case highlights the need to satisfy all three elements required to bring a proprietary estoppel claim:-
1. There must be a promise or assurance.
2. The claimant must have relied on that promise or assurance; and
3. There must be detriment to the claimant in consequence of their reasonable reliance on the promise or assurance.
It also emphasises the importance of having evidence and documentation in support of past agreements and the need for unmarried couples to consider putting a cohabitation agreement in place.
'Her labour and commitment were understandable in the context of their relationship and their intended long-term future together with children. This was to be her home, and that of her children. It is unnecessary to suppose some quasi-commercial bargain between them to explain it.'