Property Law – (1) Martin Powell & (2)Janet Powell v Betty Benney

01 Dec 2007

Area(s) of Law :
Property Law
Court :
Source : EWCA Civ 1283

Real Property

Trusts; Proprietary Estoppel; Detrimental Reliance


Mr. and Mrs Powell appealed against the decision that they were not entitled to a declaration that the Respondent held two properties on trust for them, which had previously belonged to her late cousin (H) who had died intestate.  Mr. and Mrs Powell had befriended H some time before and following the death of his mother assisted with his day-to-day affairs. P indicated on several occasions that he was going to leave his two properties to Mr. and Mrs Powell and even recorded his in writing, but it was ineffective as a will. Mr. and Mrs Powell argued that either by constructive trust or proprietary estoppel principles, the properties were their’s beneficially, but the judge rejected this contention, holding that there was an insufficient causal link between H’s promise and any detriment suffered by Mr. and Mrs Powell. He awarded them £20,000 for sums expended plus a sum to reflect their disappointment.  Mr. and Mrs Powell appealed on the basis that because H had intended the properties to be left to them and had made a clear promise to that effect, the case fell within the bargain category of proprietary estoppel cases.


Held: The appeal was dismissed.  Although H had promised to leave the properties to Mr. and Mrs Powell, he had not required them to do the detrimental acts they had relied on, such as assisting H and tidying up the properties. These acts had been done out of friendship and sympathy rather than reliance, and  Mr. and Mrs Powell had been offered the use of the properties and had accepted, which involved them incurring some expenditure, but there was no bargain or other consensual


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