Walsh v Lonsdale

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Citation: Walsh v Lonsdale (1882) 21 Ch D 9.

This information can be found in the Textbook: Edgeworth et all, Sackville and Neave's Property Law Cases and Materials, 8th edition, Lexis Nexis, 2008, pp. 306-8 [4.28].


Background Facts

  • The Plaintiff [Walsh] entered an agreement to lease a property off the Defendant [Lonsdale].
  • The agreement was made, but there was no actual formal lease (ie, a deed), which means it is not a legal lease.
  • The Plaintiff was behind on his rent and the Defendant tried to use his right to 'distress' (right of a landlord to take tenant's chattels if behind on rent).
  • The Plaintiff is trying to get an injunction against the distress.


  • The Plaintiff argues that the lease was not properly signed and therefore the landlord does not have the right to distress.

Legal issues


Equitable Leases

  • An equitable lease arises where there is an agreement to lease in writing which does not abide by formal requirements (ie, not a deed).
  • An equitable lease, where the court would grant specific performance on the agreement, should be respected as if it a legal lease.
  • The lessee acquires an equitable interest in the property, and accordingly, the lessor acquires some protections in return for that interest.
    • Both parties have the same entitlements as they would if it was a legal lease, for example, the lessor can re-enter the land under certain conditions (such as breach of contract etc), and only under those certain conditions (ie, he can be barred from entering unless these conditions are fulfilled).

Fusion Fallacies

  • in this judgment, Jessel MR commits the fusion fallacy of common law and equity when he declares: 'There are not two estates as there were formerly, one estate at common law by reason of the payment of the rent from year to year, and an estate in equity under the agreement. There is only one Court, and the equity rules prevail in it'.
  • Nevertheless, this case is good law (it has been affirmed since).


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