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Key information

King's Bench Division, England

Denning J

Promissory Estoppel

Full case

AustraliaCentral London Property v High Trees

[1947] KB 130; [1956] 1 All ER 256; 62 TLR 557; [1947] LJR 77; 175 LT 333



P (landlord) promised to reduce rent paid by D for flats (due to wartime oversupply).  Toward the end of the war – when conditions changed – P sought full rental from mid 1945 on.


P entitled to amount claimed.  However, Denning LJ indicated that if P had claimed the full rental for the entire period, the claim would have failed because P would have been estopped from going back on its promise to accept the lower sum.  His Honour held that a promise must be honoured if:

  • (a) It was made with the intention of creating legal relations
  • (b) The promisor knew it would be acted upon by the promisee; and
  • (c) It was acted upon by the promisee to the promisee’s detriment.

Estoppel in such a case could act as a defence to prevent the promisor acting inconsistently with the promise but would not found a cause of action –it was a shield rather than a sword.