High Court says precision is everything when pleading estoppel

Crown Melbourne Ltd v Cosmopolitan Hotel (Vic) Pty Ltd [2016] HCA 26

A comment that tenants would be “looked after at renewal time” was not clear enough for the majority of the High Court to accept an estoppel claim, or the existence of a collateral contract.

This case involved negotiations for the renewal of two leases. During negotiations, the landlord, Crown, offered new leases for a term of 5 years. However, these new leases did not contain an option for renewal. They did contain a requirement for the tenants to undertake significant refurbishments to the premises. So that they would see some form of recoupment and benefit from this expense, the tenants pushed the landlord to guarantee that they would be able to renew their leases.

Crown was unwilling to offer any further term, but did say that they would be “looked after at renewal time.”

As it turned out, they were not. […]