Adverse strip of land was registered to Goodneighbours, suggesting

Adverse
possession arises when a person attempts to claim legal ownership of land based
upon prior occupation, without the permission of its paper owner.1

 

i)              
Discontinuance/adverse possession

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In establishing adverse possession, one must
prove that the paper owner has been dispossessed or discontinued of his occupation.2 Discontinuance occurs when the owner abandons the
land, thereafter which the claimant begins his occupation.3 On
these grounds, Donald can establish a claim for adverse possession via
discontinuance since Ronald neglected the strip of land and Michael, the
owner, did not interfere with the land in the last 11 years.

 

 

Under the LRA, the first requirement of
adverse possession is to prove that possession is in fact adverse in nature.4 A tenant
under a lease or a person using the land with the owner’s permission cannot
claim adverse possession as he is a licensee, and ‘time can never run in favour
of a person who occupies land by licence.’5 Donald
did not gain Michael’s permission since he was unaware of the land’s registered
title and was ‘shocked’ to find that the land formed part of Goodneighbours.
Subsequently, Donald satisfies the requirement that possession must be adverse.

 

Mistaken belief

In Hughes v Cook, it was established that ownership
can be acquired where the possessor is under the mistaken belief that he is the
owner.6 Michael did not interfere with the land in
the last 11 years and Donald decided to leave the land for a year to let it recover
its fertility, illustrating his reasonable belief that the land belonged to
him.  Moreover, he was ‘disturbed’ to
discover that the strip of land was registered to Goodneighbours, suggesting
his mistaken belief that he was the owner. The fairness of the law to
allow a mistaken squatter to believe the land is his for a decade is
questionable, as Arden LJ also argues, ‘it is moral to encourage those to apply
to be registered proprietor as soon as possible.7

 

Nevertheless,
Donald satisfies the requirement which entails that possession must be adverse,
that is, without the knowledge of the legal owner.

 

 

 

ii)             
Intention to possess

Additionally, the claimant must establish
that he had the intention to possess the land.8 The case
of Prudential Assurance stipulates that the adverse possessor must show intention
to possess by outward conduct.9 Since
Donald was unaware of the registered nature of the land (as his surveyor forgot
to inform him), he left the strip of land to recover and  planted bushes across the land, thus exhibiting
his intention to possess by outward conduct.

 

iii)           
Factual possession

The third requirement of adverse possession
is factual possession. Slade J mentioned that ‘the squatter must have the
intention to exclude the world.’10 In the
case of Pye the courts held that there was sufficient intention given that Pye
was physically excluded from the land by the hedges.11 Donald also
excluded the world by planting the bushes. but one must note that despite the bushes
potentially keeping others out, he specifically planted bushes which would
deter cats, as opposed to individuals.

 

In Hounslow v Minchinton, the
Court held that there was adverse possession as the intent was to keep the dogs
in, but it had the effect of keeping the world out.12 Donald’s
bushes illustrate his enclosure of the land, and although he specifically planted
bushes that would deter cats, one must note that his intention when planting
the bushes is irrelevant13 given
that its effect was excluding the world.

 

Overall, in this instance, Donald
not only left the land for a year to recover its fertility, but also planted bushes
on the land to deter the cats from entering, thus depicting his factual
possession.

The Boundary Exception

 

If Donald’s application is unsuccessful, he
may still apply for adverse possession via the boundary rule:14

i)              
the land is adjacent to that
which the claim relates

ii)             
the boundary has not been
determined

iii)           
the land has been registered for over
a year

iv)           
the applicant reasonably believed
that the land was his15

 

Donald satisfies all of these requirements
given that the land where he planted the bushes is adjacent to Cuckooland; the
land was registered for 11 years; and that he mistakenly believed that the land
was his since he was ‘shocked’ to find out it had already been registered.

 

Overall, Donald can
claim adverse possession as he satisfies all the requirements under the LRA. If
Michael rejects Donald’s claim, it is likely that Donald can still claim
adverse possession through the boundary exception rule.

 

 

Validity of the Contract

 

i)              
Contracts made in writing

 

Under section 2 of the LPA, all
land contracts are required to be in the format of a written agreement16 as
opposed to verbal in order to eliminate the scope for misunderstandings.17 Peter
Gibson LJ suggests that “contracts which do not comply with section 2 are
ineffective…can only be made in writing”,18
reflecting the statutory language that a correspondence as such is inadequate
at law. Since the agreement for the sale of the Westwing was made in writing via
emails, the contract is enforceable.

 

However, an oral agreement was
reached for the sale of the curtains. Although this would usually render the
contract void, one must consider that it is a collateral contract. Lord
Dennings claimed,  “when a person gives a
promise to enter into a contract, a separate agreement…it is binding’.19 If we
assume that the curtains are part of a collateral contract, there is no need
for its sale to be in writing20 and
Donald can enforce this contract as the requirements of the LPA will no longer
apply. Subsequently, Donald can compel Theresa to purchase the curtains under
the collateral contract.

ii)             
Terms

 

Furthermore, the contract must contain all
terms agreed upon by the parties21 as
expressed by Rimer LJ in Keay, “A signed document…will not create a
valid contract unless it includes all the agreed terms”.22 In the
scenario, there is no mention of the exact terms the parties are agreeing too –
Donald merely states ‘as we agreed’. One must note that if the price of £50,000
is the only term mentioned in the email, then this does not suffice as a valid
contract. However, if the email did contain all the terms agreed upon, then
this can constitute as a valid contract.

 

Overall, the fact that the email may have
contained all the terms is mere speculation. If one goes by what the scenario mentions,
then this contract falls short of the requirements set out under s2 of the LPA
as all the terms have not been included.

 

 

iii)           
Signature on a single or
identical documents

Moreover, the written contract
may take the form of a single document to be signed by both parties; or
identical copies of a document to be signed by both parties.23 This
scenario merely mentions Donald and Theresa’s string of emails, rather than the
signing of a single document, raising the question of whether a string of
emails can constitute as a single document, as expressed in the case of Green v
Ireland. The judge held that an exchange of e-mails set out in a “string”
constituted one document.24 Ultimately
the judge held there to be no contract due to the exclusion of all terms.25 In this
scenario, Theresa may have specified the terms of the contract to which Donald
replied that he agrees, thus the contract would still be valid.

 

The case of Golden Ocean stipulates that a
contract can be formed by an e-signature. In this case, the court held that if
a person ‘puts his name on an email…indicates that he takes responsibility for
its contents.’ This is the case even where a nickname is used.26 If one
takes the view that his nickname is a valid signature, Donald did not end the
emails with his nickname, rather he attached it to a drawing which is not part
of the contract, as opposed to the document containing the terms. Even if one
does take the view that Donald’s nickname being attached to a drawing constitutes
as a valid signature, the lack of Theresa’s email invalidates this contract.

 

Given the potential exclusion a written
contract, the lack of a single/exchanged document(s), and the signatures, under
s2 of the LPA, the contract for the sale of the West wing is essentially void;
this leaves the scope for Donald to pursue this case on the grounds of promissory
estoppel, although since he has suffered no obvious detriment, it is likely to
be unsuccessful.

 

 

Overall, Donald can claim adverse
possession for the strip of land in Westwing given that he satisfies all the
requirements for adverse possession, as well as the boundary exception rule. However,
Donald cannot compel Theresa to purchase Westwing as their contract is null.

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