This property dispute involves a barn. In this case, the claimant wanted a declaration that the defendants did not have the right to enter the barn they were converting. Initially, there was an oral agreement for the claimants to sell the barn to the defendants, who then made significant renovations. However, the relationship soured when they could not formalise the agreement in writing. The claimant argued that there was an agreement giving him the option to repurchase the barn. Learn more about this case and the important role which can be played by dispute resolution, which was rejected by the defendants.


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The Issue and the Law


The main issue in this case was whether the Defendants had the right to demand the transfer of the property known as “the Barn” from the Claimant, who also owns a larger property called Church Farm. If the court ruled in favour of the Claimant, the question arises whether injunctions requested in the claim should still be granted, considering the likelihood of the Defendants trespassing. Similarly, if the Defendants succeeded in their counterclaim, the necessity of the relief sought needed to be evaluated. The court should consider the guidance from Gestmin SGPS S.A. v Credit Suisse (UK) Limited on how to assess evidence, especially the importance of contemporaneous documents.


While the Claimant and his witness believe there was an agreement for a buy-back option, documents from solicitors suggest otherwise. The court therefore had to weigh the oral evidence against the written documents to determine the true agreement between the parties.


The Judge dealt with the law and interaction between proprietary estoppel, constructive trust and s. 2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989. He then analysed his inspection on the evidence provided by both parties in detail, in order to establish the intention of the parties.


The Conclusion and Warning on use of Mediation


The court has ruled in favour of the Defendants in this case. The claim has been dismissed, and the Defendants are entitled to enforce the terms of the oral agreement through specific performance. The court believes that granting any lesser relief would not be appropriate, considering the nature of the agreement and the significance of the Barn to the Defendants.


Notably, the Judge mentioned the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Churchill v Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, stressing again the importance of mediation and dispute resolution, as well as concern over the Defendants’ rejection of mediation in this matter. The Judge indicated that he will deal with outstanding matters and costs when the judgment is handed down. It might mean that the Defendants’ costs claim being reduced due to the rejection.


The judgment was published on 31 May 2024.


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