Proprietary Estoppel in Contract-Like Settings

3 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2013

See all articles by Michael L. Lower

Michael L. Lower

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: February 5, 2013


Some proprietary estoppel cases arise out of bargainlike agreements or understandings. One party promises another that he has, or will acquire, an interest in land often in return for some quid pro quo.The nature of the interest to be acquired is well-defined, it is understood as being intended to be taken seriously. The arrangement is reached in a commercial context and, to a greater or lesser extent, there is an expectation that a formal written agreement or grant would be appropriate. Nevertheless, the assurances are clearly not ‘subject to contract’ and are intended to bind the party giving them.

The question is whether these arrangements need to comply with the formalities or registration requirements demanded of contracts for the disposition of an interest in land. Should it be possible to rely on proprietary estoppel where the parties have not complied with the formalities required for the disposition of an interest in land?

Ultimately, the question is whether or not proprietary estoppel operates independently of contract even when it arises out of a bargain between the parties.

Keywords: proprietary estoppel, land, contract, formalities, public policy

JEL Classification: K10, K11, K12

Suggested Citation

Lower, Michael L., Proprietary Estoppel in Contract-Like Settings (February 5, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Michael L. Lower (Contact Author)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Law ( email )

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Shatin, New Territories
Kowloon, Sha Tin
Hong Kong

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