THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN SUPREME COURT
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
CLAIM NO.: SLUHCV2021/0168
Mr. Bapson Ambrose of Counsel for the Claimant
Mr. David Moyston of Counsel for the Defendant
2022: November 2; 8;
2023: February 1.
 INNOCENT, J.: The parties in the present proceedings are father and son. The
claimant is the proprietor of a substantially completed concrete residential structure
(the ‘house’) which is erected on what has been described as “family land”. The
claimant has no title to the land upon which the house is erected. The defendant
presently occupies the house together with the claimant. There is no dispute
regarding the ownership of the house.
 A dispute arose between the parties wherein the claimant has sought to exercise
his right to the exclusive occupation of the house to the exclusion of the defendant
consequent on what he alleged as mistreatment at the hands of the defendant.
 The defendant has refused to vacate the house and claimed the right to occupy the
same on the basis of contributions allegedly made by him towards the improvements
to physical structure of the house. The defendant also claimed that he was entitled
to remain in occupation the house until such time as he was reimbursed by the
claimant for such sums expended in making the improvements to the house which
he claimed increased the value of the house.
 It appeared from the evidence that the claimant did not dispute the fact that the
defendant made improvements to the house but he denied that the improvements
were to the extent described by the defendant and that he agreed to reimburse the
defendant for the improvements made to the house.
 The claimant however, alleged that any improvements made to the house by the
defendant was done without his knowledge consent or approval. An allegation
strenuously opposed by the defendant.
 In the circumstances, the claimant brought the present claim by which he sought an
order for possession of the house to the exclusion of the defendant and costs.
 The defendant did not dispute that the claimant commenced construction of the
house from his personal income derived from his employment while resident
overseas. However, the defendant contended that when he commenced making
improvements to the house it was substantially incomplete and uninhabitable; and
therefore, the improvements were necessary.
 It was the defendant’s case that it was the claimant who requested his assistance
in completing the house and making the necessary improvements thereto to make
it habitable. The defendant also alleged that in consideration of the improvements
made by him the claimant agreed to permit him to occupy the house. It appeared
from the evidence that the defendant took up residence at the house prior to the
claimant’s return to Saint Lucia on or about the year 2018.
 In the premises, the defendant counterclaimed for the improvements which he
claimed to have made to the house. The defendant alleged that he expended the
sum of approximately $200,000.00 in making improvements to the house. The
claimant filed no reply and defence to the defendant’s defence and counterclaim.
 Prior to filing the present claim, the claimant caused a notice to quit to be served on
the defendant who in turn maintained that he was a tenant at sufferance and that
the notice to quit was defective to the extent that it did not comply with the provisions
of the law.
 On 2nd August 2022, the claimant filed an application for certain interim relief. The
interim relief sought was in the nature of the remedies provided for under the
Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act and in any event sought to obtain
the same relief or result sought in the substantive claim before the court. Therefore,
the court declined to grant the interim relief sought. However, the court having
recognised the urgency of the claim ordered an expedited trial and accordingly
dispensed with the usual case management procedure.
 In light of the pleadings and the evidence of the parties at the trial, the resolution of
the following issues appear to dispositive of the present claim: (1) whether the
claimant was entitled to the exclusive possession of the house; (2) whether the
defendant had acquired any or any equitable interest in the house which entitled
him to remain in occupation; (3) whether the defendant was a tenant at sufferance;
and (4) whether the defendant was entitled to compensation or reimbursement for
the improvements made to the house.
 Although the defendant did not rely on the doctrine of equitable estoppel it appears
that this issue arose tangentially in the course of the trial as part of the defendant’s
case. Therefore, the court will consider the question of whether the defendant can
rely on the doctrine of equitable estoppel to support his claim to an irrevocable
license to occupy the house.
 The court may, under the doctrine of equitable estoppel, grant an irrevocable license
to an occupier of land which is owned by another. This principle was discussed in
Nicholas Lansiquot v Ignatius Leon and anothers where Rawlins JA relied on
Lord Denning MR in Inwards v Baker.
Lord Denning MR said:
“If the owner of the land requests another, or indeed allows another, to
expend money on the land under an expectation created or encouraged by
the (owner of the land) that he will be able to remain there, that raises an
equity in the licence such as to entitle him to stay.”
 In Lansiquot v Leon, the Court of Appeal also adopted the broader approach to
the doctrine of equitable estoppel promulgated by the English High Court in
Fashions Ltd v Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society.
This approach was to ascertain whether in particular individual circumstances, it would be unconscionable
for a party to be permitted to deny that which, knowingly or unknowingly, he has
allowed or encouraged another to assume to his detriment.
 In Lansiquot v Leon, Rawlins JA also referred to the decision in Cherry Cabral v
Alice Robinson King where it was held that four conditions must be satisfied for
an occupier to establish a proprietary estoppel. These conditions were stated to be
that the occupier must have incurred expenditure or otherwise prejudiced himself or
acted to his or her detriment; the occupier must prove that he or she had some
assurance from the owner that caused the occupier to believe that he or she already
had or would have obtained sufficient interest in the land to justify the expenditure,
so that if the occupier has no such belief and improves the land when he knows that
he is merely a tenant, licensee or occupier under an incomplete or revocable
contract, he has no equity as a result of his expenditure; the occupier must have
been encouraged by the owner, his agent or predecessor in title; the occupier must
have acted in reliance on the assurance or encouragement, therefore, mere
expenditure with consent does not give rise to an estoppel, and one who voluntarily
improves another’s land without encouragement or promise of reward does so
entirely at his own risk; proprietary estoppel will not arise where its enforcement
would contravene a statute, prevent the exercise of a statutory discretion or excuse
the performance of a statutory duty.
 Applying these principles to the present case, the court is not prepared to accept
that the defendant acquired any equitable interest in the claimant’s property by any
proprietary estoppel which conferred on him the right to occupy, ownership or any
equitable interest in the claimant’s premises. This is clearly the case as shown by
the evidence presented at the trial.
 Although the claimant denied having any conversation with the defendant while he
was overseas regarding the improvements to the house, he appeared at time to
contradict his initial testimony and instead qualified it with the assertion that he had
difficulty remembering events because he suffered a brain tumour. In the course of
the trial it became apparent to the court that the claimant’s memory and ability to
recall past events were severely challenged.
 However, notwithstanding that the court is willing to accept that the defendant did in
fact obtain the claimant’s consent to effect the improvements to the house, the court
declines to accept that the claimant agreed to permit the defendant to occupy the
house indefinitely in consideration for his carrying out the improvements; and
conferred on the defendant any right of occupation equivalent to the acquisition of
a propriety or equitable interest in the house.
 The defendant in the present case has failed to demonstrate that he acted to his
detriment in the belief that he already owned or acquired a sufficient interest in the
house or that he could obtain such an interest by virtue of any promise made by the
 The court has considered as a whole the evidence presented by the parties at the
trial and it does not appear that apart from conferring a right to live in the house, that
the claimant had by his conduct, whether by anything said or done, encouraged any
belief that the defendant could treat the house as belonging to him or he having
acquired an interest in the house.
 The doctrine of proprietary estoppel is based on the elements of a representation or
assurance made to the occupier or possessor, reliance on it by the occupier or
possessor, and detriment to the occupier or possessor in consequence of their
reliance on such representation or assurance.
 In Kirsten Richardson v Chandra Carr where the claimant sought to establish an
equitable interest in property The court, relying on the decision in Re Bashan Deed
for the proposition that “…where one person A has acted to his detriment on the faith
of a belief, which was known to and encouraged by another person, B, that he either
has or is going to be given a right in or over B’s property, B, cannot insist on his
strict legal rights if to do so would be inconsistent with A’s belief”.
 The following principles can be distilled from the decision of Ellis J. That in order to
make out a case for equitable estoppel a claimant must establish certain conduct of
the claimant, certain conduct of the defendant and certain qualities of the subject
matter. In respect of the conduct of a claimant, the claimant must have acted to his
detriment upon an assumption or expectation that a particular legal relationship
existed or would exist between the claimant and the defendant or that the claimant
would acquire some interest in the defendant’s property.
 In respect of the conduct of a defendant, the claimant must have induced the
defendant to adopt the assumption or expectation and encouraged the detriment of
the claimant or at least failed to deny the assumption or expectation with knowledge
that the claimant was relying on it to the claimant’s detriment.
 As regards the subject matter, it must be clear that the assumption or expectation
in respect of it was one that defendant could lawfully satisfy. In addition to general
proof of detriment, the claimant must also prove that in incurring this detriment, he
acted in the belief that he already owned a sufficient interest in the property to justify
the detriment or that he would obtain such an interest.
 In the present case, the claimant has provided no evidence that he acted to his
detriment in the belief that he already owned or acquired a sufficient interest in the
house or that he could obtain such an interest based on any representation or
promise by the claimant to that effect.
 In the court’s view, on the evidence presented, it seems only fair to accept that the
claimant, through an act of benevolence simply agreed to allow the defendant to
occupy the house rent free. To that extent the defendant was merely a gratuitous
 In the case of Kenyatta Allain v Trevor Allain the defendant had entered and
taken possession of certain premises with the permission of the deceased
proprietor. He was given notice to quit the premises by the representative of the
deceased’s proprietor’s estate. The defendant failed to comply with the notice to quit
the premises. The defendant claimed to have expended money on improvements
to the premises and refused to give up possession unless and until he was
reimbursed for the value of the improvements made to the premises. The court in
deciding the issues of the nature of the defendant’s occupation of the premises and
whether he was entitled to remain in possession until compensated by the
improvements held that the defendant had been given permission by the deceased
proprietor and that such license had been terminated at the death of the deceased
proprietor or at the latest by the issuance of the notice to quit.
 In the premises, the court in Allain v Allain held that the defendant had no basis for
remaining in occupation of the premises. In that case the court also concluded, as
does the court in the present case, that the defendant’s right to occupy the premises
was based on the agreement that the defendant could repair the premises and stay
in it, but there was no promise or agreement that he would be reimbursed for those
repairs or improvements. Accordingly, the court found that in light of these
conclusions the question of promissory estoppel did not arise.
 In Lansiquot v Leon the Court of Appeal found that the improvements were such
that they could not be removed without causing deterioration to the land. In addition,
they also found that the respondents had expended substantial sums on these
improvements. Therefore, in keeping with Article 372 they found that it was only fair
to order the appellant to keep the improvements made by the respondent but after
first paying for them at their actual value as determined by an assessor appointed
by agreement or by the court.
 The Court of Appeal also held applying Article 1515 of the Civil Code, that persons
holding real property by sufferance of the owner, without lease, are held to be
lessees who are bound to pay the annual value of the property.12 It was on that basis
that the Court of Appeal declared that the appellant was entitled to possession of
the property, and accordingly, the respondents were to give up possession of the
land to him by 1st May 2008 and ordered that the appellant was entitled to keep the
improvements made by the respondents, the appellant, upon the day on which the
respondents were ordered to give up possession pay to them the actual value of the
 In the case of Harris Stephen and another v Agatha Sonson the appellants held
that they were entitled to remain on the disputed property until certain improvements
which they alleged they carried out in good faith were paid for by the respondent.
The trial judge had ordered that the appellants vacate the respondent’s property
forthwith and that they were not entitled to be compensated for the improvements
made. The appellants appealed on the ground that the trial judge erred in failing to
hold that the appellants were entitled to remain in possession of the land until
payment of compensation. They also claimed as the defendant in the present case
has claimed, that the trial judge ought to have dismissed the respondent’s claim for
possession since the appellants who were tenants at sufferance had not been given
valid notice to quit.
 Consistent with the Court of Appeal’s findings in the above-cited case, this court
finds that any right enjoyed by the defendant to occupy the house had not been
elevated to the right of usufruct. Therefore, in the absence of usufructary rights, and
in the face of grant of permission from the claimant, the rights enjoyed by the
defendant was not that of a tenant at sufferance but that of a bare licensee.
 The court in Stephen v Sonson went on to consider the rights of a tenant at
sufferance and adopted the reasoning and approach of Rawlins JA in Lansiquot v
Leon by ordering that the appellants give up possession of the property on or before
 In the present case, the defendant claimed to be a tenant at sufferance. Assuming
that this was in fact in the case, then the provisions of Article 1515 of the Civil Code
would come into operation and the provisions of Article 1544 and not 372 would be
applicable. In any event, the defendant’s assertions with respect to his tenancy at
sufferance is in direct conflict with any assertions made by him that relate to the
acquisition of any right to occupy the house on equitable grounds. In addition, it did
not appear from the evidence that there was any contractual agreement between
the parties pursuant to which the defendant took possession of the house in his own
right. Any such assertion made by the defendant would have ran contrary to his
averment that he was a tenant at sufferance.
 Therefore, assuming that the court found that the defendant was a tenant at
sufferance as he claimed, then his position with respect to the improvements which
he made could not be governed by the provisions of Article 372 but regulated by the
provisions of Article 1544 of the Civil Code.
 In Theresa Estephane and another v Edison Peter the appellants claimed
reimbursement for the costs of improvements to land owned by the respondent or
alternatively conveyance of the property to them of the estimated value, possession
and damages. The issue before the trial judge was whether Article 372 of the Civil
Code applied. The trial judge held that the appellants were not claiming the land
“animus domini” and in his judgment Article 372 was not available to them. He
therefore dismissed their claim. The main ground of the appellants’ appeal was that
the trial Judge erred in holding that Article 372 was not available to the appellants.
The contention was that having found as he did that the appellants were possessors
in good faith and that the improvements made to the land were necessary
improvements, the learned Judge ought to have found that paragraph 2 of the Article
applied. The respondent did not question the Judge’s finding that the appellants
were possessors in good faith nor that the improvements made to the land were
necessary improvements but submitted that Article 372 was not applicable in view
of Article 367 of the Civil Code.
 In Stanley Black’s case Peterkin J.A. quoted the following passage from the
judgment of Lewis J in Simeon v Beaubrun “In the case of Chenic Hardware
Co. v Laurent it was held that Article 417 of the civil Code of Quebec (our 372)
applies in general, only to third parties who possess animo domini for themselves
and on their own account, in good or bad faith, and does not apply to those who
possess by virtue of a contract, such as farmers, lessees, usufructuaries, and the
like. In those cases the rights and obligations of the parties are governed by the
principles applicable to the contracts by virtue of which they possess. The position
of lessees with respect to improvements made by them is regulated by Article 1544
of the Civil Code (corresponding to the Quebec Civil Code Article 1640)”.
 The court found that the passage cited above made the distinction between those
whose possession was not by virtue of a contract with the owner in which case
Article 372 applies and those who possess by virtue of a contract which would
govern the relationship between the possessor and the owner. The court held that
the finding that the appellants did not fall within the category of non-contract
possessors only to whom Article 372 applies was consistent with the position taken
by all the parties that the appellants are tenants by sufferance.
 The court also found on the basis of Article 1515 of the Civil Code that a contract is
deemed to exist between the parties and the relationship between them governed
by the law applicable to leases. Therefore, they upheld the decision of the learned
Judge that Article 372 was not applicable and dismissed the appeal.
 A similar approach to this issue was taken in the case of Maura Desir v Mc Gregor
Agdomer.The court also relied on the decision of Jerome Simeon v Clive
Anthony Beaubrun and confirmed in Black v The Mayor and Citizens of
Castries St Lucia for the proposition that the position of lessees with respect to
improvements made by them is regulated not by Article 372 but by Article 1544 of
the Civil Code.
 The court in Desir v Agdomer having found that Article 1544 which provided that
the lessee has a right to remove, before the expiration of the lease, improvements
and additions which he has made, provided he leaves the property in the state in
which he receives it; nevertheless, if the improvements or additions he incorporated
with the thing leased, with nails, lime, or cement, the lessor may retain them on
paying the value found that the defendant in that case had acted in good faith was
entitled to compensation for improvements.
 The court does not readily or at all accept the defendant’s assertion that he was a
tenant at sufferance, particularly in light of the fact that the defendant did not overtly
challenge the claimant’s title to the house and asserted no right to the ownership,
occupation or possession thereof. In the circumstances, the court will now turn to
consider whether the defendant can assert any rights as a tenant at sufferance in
occupation of the disputed premises.
 Article 1515 of the Civil Code provides that persons holding real property by
sufferance of the owner, without lease, are held to be lessees who are bound to pay
the annual value of the property. Such holding is regarded as an annual lease or
hire terminating on the first day of May of each year. It is subject to tacit renewal
and to all the rules of law applicable to leases. Persons so holding are liable to
ejectment for non-payment of rent for a period exceeding three months, and for any
other causes for which a lease may be rescinded.
 The issue which now arises is whether the claimant could have terminated the
tenancy at sufferance in the manner in which he did. The court has examined the
notice to quit that was served on the defendant at the behest of the claimant and
has found that it was not in compliance with the law.
 Therefore, the court agrees with the defendant’s assertion that the notice to quit was
indeed defective and hence not competent to terminate the tenancy in which case
the defendant was not obliged to act in accordance with it. The notice to quit was by
letter dated 2nd June 2022 which required the defendant to immediately quit and
deliver up vacant possession of the house.
 Article 560 of the Civil Code provides that when the term of a lease is uncertain, or
the lease is verbal, or presumed as provided in article 1515, neither of the parties
can terminate it without giving notice to the other, with a delay of three months, if
the rent be payable at terms of three months or more; if the rent be payable at terms
of less than three months, the delay is determined according to article 1546. The
whole nevertheless subject to that article and to articles 1515 and 1556.
 Article 1546 of the Civil Code provides that the lease or hire of a house or part of a
house, when no time is specified for its duration, is held to be annual, terminating
on the first day of May of each year, when the rent is at a rate for a year.
 The court has already found that there was no tenancy created in favour of the
defendant in respect of which he held over which accordingly gave rise to a tenancy
at sufferance.22 Therefore, there being no tenancy at sufferance the defendant
cannot rely on any defect in the notice given to him to vacate the claimant’s
 The court has determined that the claimant is entitled to possession of the house.
The defendant’s occupation of the house as licensee was terminated upon the
service of the notice to quit. Therefore, on the basis of the foregoing provisions of
the Civil Code examined above, the court finds that the claimant is entitled to the
immediate possession of the house to the exclusion of the defendant.
 The defendant’s assertion that he has no alternative place to live has not eluded the
court in its consideration of the matter. In light of the evidence in that regard, the
court is of the view that the defendant is entitled to a reasonable period of time within
which to seek alternative accommodation. The defendant in this case was clearly
not a trespasser.
 However, the court is also cognisant of the fact that the defendant after having
gratuitously made improvements to the house had occupied the same for a
considerable length of time rent free. It cannot be the object of the law of equity to
permit someone to gratuitously make improvements to a person’ house which they
are permitted to occupy rent free as a licensee and in the absence of any express
contract or the existence of any promissory estoppel wherein he acted on some
promise made by the owner that he would be reimbursed for his improvements, to
set up equitable principles to deny the owner of the exclusive occupation of his
 A lessee has a right to remove, before the expiration of the lease, improvements
and additions which he has made, provided he leaves the property in the state in Heskeith Esprit v AnthonyMeade  ECSCJ No. 185 per Rawlins J. at paras 24-29; Errington v Errington and Another  1 All ER 149 which he received it; nevertheless, if the improvements or additions be incorporated with the thing leased, with nails, lime, or cement, the lessor may retain them on
paying the value.23 However, in the present case, the court having found that there
was no tenancy at sufferance, then the provisions of Article 372 of the Civil Code
ought to apply in relation to the improvements made by the defendant.
 The court finds that the work performed by the defendant on the house amounted
to improvements and that such improvements were of a nature that they became
incorporated with the house and therefore cannot be removed without causing
damage to the existing structure or rendering uninhabitable and incapable of use.
However, in light of the findings which the court has made herein the claimant is
entitled to retain the improvements without paying their value.
 Although the court finds that the improvements made to the house by the defendant
were done in good faith and were necessary. However, the defendant is not entitled
to recover the value of those improvements.
 In any event, the defendant was unable to prove the value of the improvements
which he has made. Therefore, it would have become necessary to obtain the
opinion of a quantity surveyor to value the improvements made by the defendant. In
addition, it appears that there is conflicting evidence regarding who undertook the
operation of the works resulting in the improvements and who made the financial
outlay for some of the improvements.
 For the reasons set out in this judgment the court’s order is as follows:
1. Judgment is entered for the claimant. The claimant is entitled to possession
of the house to the exclusion of the defendant.
2. The defendant’s counterclaim is dismissed.
23 Civil Code Article 1544
3. The defendant shall give up vacant possession of the house to the claimant
within 30 days of the date of this order.
4. Each party shall bear their own costs of the proceedings.
High Court Judge
By the Court
p style=”text-align: right;”>Dp. Registrar