Harvey v Pratt [1965] 1 WLR 1025

Contract – Enforceability – Uncertainty

Facts

The parties entered into an agreement for the lease of a petrol station and garage. The written agreement specified that the term of the lease was to be for a period of twenty-one years and with an option for further renewal of this lease after this period expired. However, the agreement failed to specify a starting date for the commencement of this period, although it did provide for a certain price for the rent. The defendant never actually commenced occupation and never paid, instead choosing another garage to lease. The claimant sued for breach of contract.

Issues

Whether or not the agreement was valid or whether it was void for uncertainty.

Held

The agreement was not enforceable and was void for uncertainty. The absolute minimum necessary to allow the court to be able to uphold the parties’ agreement was to be able to know when the lease could be said to start. Following the case of Marshall v Berridge [1881-85] All ER Rep 908, it has been established that for a lease to be valid, one of the requirements is there to be agreement on the date of commencement and a date when the lease was to end. There was not an implied term that the lease was to commence ‘within a reasonable time’ as was implied in cases for the sale of land in lease agreements, and this was settled law. Instead, this was an agreement for a lease to start at an unspecified future time. This future time was never agreed. There was, as a result, no enforceable contract.