The recent case of Tapp v Barnett [2021] NSWSC 1271 concerned a contractual dispute between two parties for the sale of land. The property consisted of nine lots on separate titles of land owned by the defendant, which comprised approximately half of the vendor’s property.

A contract of sale of nine lots of the property was signed in the presence of a licenced conveyancer acting for all parties. The contract recorded all matters essential for a binding contract of sale, however the purchase price was expressed to be $1. As a result, the vendor argued that the contract was in draft form and not intended to be binding. The purchasers thus sought specific performance of the contract of sale.

The purchasers also brought a claim for equitable estoppel based on the vendor’s representations that she would transfer half of the property to the plaintiffs in return for the plaintiffs providing benefits to her such as by transferring cattle, paying money at her request and assuming liability with her for a bank loan. The purchasers contended that they acted to their detriment in reliance upon the vendor’s representations and that it would be unconscionable for the vendor to depart from her representations.

The Court held that the contract was binding and that the reference to a transfer of 9 lots of the land held by the vendor was sufficiently certain to support an equitable estoppel. Additionally, it was reasonable for the purchasers to rely upon the vendor’s assurances and assume or expect that the vendor would fulfil her promise.

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