Charrington v Simons & Co Ltd

English Contract Law

Charrington v Simons & Co Ltd
Image: ‘In the Orchard’ by James Guthrie

The conveyance of land with restrictive covenants is not uncommon within property law, however when the safeguard designed to protect the needs of the vendor becomes central to his anguish, it becomes clear that the attached principles have become somewhat misused.

In a matter concerning the part-sale of an orchard by a farmer, the respondent entered into the purchase on the understanding that at no point was the road running between the two plots previously owned, to exceed the height beyond that of the section retained, as to do otherwise would impact upon the farmer’s ability to harvest his remaining plot.

After ignoring the covenant, the respondent began resurfacing the road to a height that did in fact exceed the permissions granted, thus prompting the appellant to protest both orally and by letter. When the work continued and his obvious displeasure went unheard, the appellant issued a writ in pursuit of a mandatory injunction, which would result in the removal of all works undertaken at cost to the respondent.

In the first hearing, the judge adopted the unorthodox position of taking two negatives in order to create a positive. This was executed through an injunction, while explaining that:

(i) The respondent was to modify the road so as to benefit the appellant, rather than to remove it outright, after having spent around £1400 on its construction, before paying the appellant £1062 in special damages for the harm caused to date.

(ii) The mandatory injunction was to remain ineffective for a period of three years, while the respondent set about altering the road’s layout, which itself required agreement by the appellant to trespass onto his land in order to carry out the work.

(iii) That consultation between the two parties would continue throughout this period, and that should the appellant refuse to consent to the needs of the respondent, the respondent would be granted sufficient argument so as to discharge the injunction entirely.

Upon immediate appeal, the appellant argued that the judge had erred in law when creating an injunction that rendered the breach of covenant void, that requirement to consent to the work would result in a trespass and that such an impingement and modification would cause the appellant to suffer both personally and financially, as his own orchard would be compromised during the alterations.

With consideration of the judge’s genuine wish to improve upon an already damaging situation, the Court held that when refusing to enforce the injunction with immediate effect, the court had failed to properly address the purpose of both the covenant and the injunction in favour of an outcome serving only the needs of the breaching party.

 

Copeland v Greenhalf

English Property Law

Copeland v Greenhalf
Image: ‘Children Watching a Wheelwright’ by Robert Gallon

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Moran v University College Salford

English Contract Law

Moran v University College Salford
Image: ‘Undergraduates’ by Edward Irvine Halliday

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Interlocutory discourse between those that apply for, or request obtainment of services, and the party empowered to grant them, can on the surface, appear to suggest a verbal or somewhat provisional agreement to contract with one another. Unfortunately, it would seem that under common law this would be false assumption, as there is still yet more to require a binding agreement. When the applicant for a university degree course becomes victim to an administrative error, it is left for the courts to clarify the mechanics of these arrangements, in a light that might well preturb.

After choosing to study for a recognised qualification in a competitive field, the appellant used a central admissions system to act on his behalf when approaching a number of suitable universities. After facing a volume of rejections, he received an unconditional offer from a provider of notable standing. There were of course certain conditions attached to the offer, and one of those was the preclusion from seeking admission through the clearing system, as well as accepting any other offers from universities at a later date. The appellant duly acquiesced to these conditions, and returned his acceptance form both in good time, and using the methods prescribed by the university.

During the period between his acceptance and subsequent discovery that his application had been denied due to over subscription, the appellant had left his position of employment, turned down a second interview for another post, surrendered his tenancy with his landlord and made plans to relocate, so as to support his education. In fact, it was due to a phone call to the university that he learned of the error, at which point he was informed that he could try to apply for an alternative course through clearing (which by this time had run its course).

When seeking legal remedy under three heads of (i) specific performance (ii) mandatory injunction and (iii) breach of contract, the court found that although the offer had been sent and the acceptance received within the guidelines, there was no guarantee of contract until the enrolment process and payment of fees had occurred. As this fact then prevented the existence of a contract, any claim for specific performance was quashed, along with that of a breach or mandatory injunction.

Upon appeal, the details of the arrangement were given a thorough examination, and some interesting facts emerged. While it was central admission policy to issue application guidelines to the public, there were similar guidelines issued to the receiving universities that contained within them, important information that upon consideration warranted inclusion to the former documentation, as they outlined the responsibilities of the providers where such errors were found. In addition to this, the failure of the admissions team to properly address the appellant’s application, had denied him any opportunity to enter clearing, an act which was held as consideration prior to contract.

Unfortunately, despite the good intention and sufferance of the applicant (under the assumption that a legal contract had been constructed), the Court ruled that as with the first judgment, there had been no evidence to suggest that a contract existed, because there had been no formal enrolment and agreed payment of fees; a caveat which had been further construed from the terms contained within the central admissions guide.