Thomas Bates and Sons Ltd v Wyndham’s Lingerie Ltd: CA 21 Nov 1980

An application was made for rectification of a rent review clause in a lease. When executing the lease, the tenants’ officer, Mr Avon, noticed that the rent review clause in the lease drafted by the landlords was defective in not including a provision in default of agreement. The trial judge held that the conduct of Mr Avon, who had not given evidence, amounted to sharp practice.
Held: The tenants knew of the omission and of the landlords’ mistake. When establishing the right to rectification of a document, the claimant does not have to meet more than the civil standard of balance of probabilities, but convincing proof is required to counteract the cogent evidence of the parties’ intention displayed by the instrument.
Referring to Riverlake, Buckley LJ said: ‘Undoubtedly I think in any such case the conduct of the defendant must be such as to make it inequitable that he should be allowed to object to the rectification of the document. If this necessarily implies some measure of ‘sharp practice’, so be it; but for my part I think that the doctrine is one which depends more on the equity of the position. The graver the character of the conduct involved, no doubt the heavier the burden of proof may be; but, in my view, the conduct must be such as to affect the conscience of the party who has suppressed the fact that he has recognised the presence of a mistake.
For this doctrine – that is to say the doctrine of A Roberts v Leicestershire County Council – to apply I think it must be shown: first, that one party A erroneously believed that the document sought to be rectified contained a particular term or provision, or possibly did not contain a particular term or provision which, mistakenly, it did contain; secondly, that the other party B was aware of the omission or the inclusion and that it was due to a mistake on the part of A; thirdly, that B has omitted to draw the mistake to the notice of A. And I think there must be a fourth element involved, namely, that the mistake must be one calculated to benefit B. If these requirements are satisfied, the court may regard it as inequitable to allow B to resist rectification to give effect to A’s intention on the ground that the mistake was not, at the time of execution of the document, a mutual mistake.’
As to the burden of proof: ‘The standard of proof required in an action of rectification to establish the common intention of the parties is, in my view, the civil standard of balance of probability. But as the alleged common intention ex hypothesi contradicts the written instrument, convincing proof is required in order to counteract the cogent evidence of the parties’ intention displayed by the instrument itself. It is not, I think, the standard of proof which is high, so differing from the normal civil standard, but the evidential requirement needed to counteract the inherent probability that the written instrument truly represents the parties’ intention because it is a document signed by the parties. The standard of proof is no different in a case of so-called unilateral mistake such as the present.’

Buckley LJ, Brightman LJ
[1981] 1 WLR 505, [1980] EWCA Civ 3, [1981] 1 All ER 1077
England and Wales
CitedA Roberts and Co Ltd v Leicestershire County Council ChD 1961
The court considered the circumstances required for rectification of a contract after a unilateral mistake. Pennycuick J said: ‘a party is entitled to rectification of a contract upon proof that he believed a particular term to be included in the . .
CitedRiverlate Properties Ltd v Paul CA 1974
A lessor sought to have the lease rectified against the tenant, saying the tenant had sufficient knowledge of the error in the lease to permit that remedy.
Held: The tenant had no such knowledge as would have brought the doctrine into play. In . .

Cited by:
CitedAMP (UK) Plc and Another v Barker and Others ChD 8-Dec-2000
The claimants were interested under a pension scheme. Alterations had been made, which the said had been in error, and they sought rectification to remove a link between early leaver benefits and incapacity benefits. The defendant trustees agreed . .
ApprovedGeorge Wimpey UK Ltd v VI Construction Ltd CA 3-Feb-2005
A land purchase contract had been rectified by the judge for unilateral mistake. A factor had been dropped from a formula for calculating the price.
Held: The judge’s conclusion that the circumstances existed to allow a rectification was . .
CitedLittman, Young v Aspen Oil (Broking) Ltd ChD 1-Jul-2005
The tenant sought to exercise a break clause in the lease. The landlord said that the exercise of the right was subject to the tenant having first complied with the terms of the lease.
Held: There was an obvious mistake in the clause which . .
CitedLittman and Another v Aspen Oil (Broking) Ltd CA 19-Dec-2005
A lease had been granted with a break clause, which the tenant exercised. The Landlord said it had not complied with its obligations and was not free to exercise that clause. The clause had included the word ‘landlord’ where it should have read . .
CitedConnolly Ltd v Bellway Homes Ltd ChD 23-Apr-2007
The claimant sought rectification of a contract for the sale of land, or damages in deceit. They said that it had been agreed that the price would be adjusted to reflect any change in values. The formula inserted made no great sense mathematically, . .
CitedDaventry District Council v Daventry and District Housing Ltd CA 13-Oct-2011
The appellant challenged refusal of rectification of its agreement with the defendant. They asserted either mutual or unilateral mistake. The parties had agreed for the transfer of housing stock and management staff to the respondents. The claimant . .
CitedFSHC Group Holdings Ltd v Glas Trust Corporation Ltd CA 31-Jul-2019
Rectification – Chartbrook not followed
Opportunity for an appellate court to clarify the correct test to apply in deciding whether the written terms of a contract may be rectified because of a common mistake.
Held: The appeal failed. The judge was right to conclude that an . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Equity, Landlord and Tenant, Contract

Leading Case

Updated: 31 October 2021; Ref: scu.184572