What is an estoppel in real estate?

What is an estoppel in real estate?


In the realm of real estate, there are various legal concepts and principles that play a crucial role in determining the rights and obligations of parties involved in property transactions. One such concept is estoppel. Estoppel serves as a legal doctrine that prevents a person from asserting a claim or right that contradicts their previous actions or statements. In the context of real estate, estoppel can have significant implications for property owners, tenants, and other parties involved in property transactions.

Understanding Estoppel in Real Estate

Estoppel in real estate is primarily concerned with the principle of fairness and preventing individuals from taking advantage of their own inconsistent behavior or representations. It operates as a legal barrier that prevents a party from denying or asserting a certain fact or right when their previous conduct or statements have induced another party to rely on such representations to their detriment.

Types of Estoppel: There are different types of estoppel that can arise in the context of real estate transactions. Some of the key types include:

1. Estoppel by Deed: This type of estoppel arises when a person conveys property to another party and subsequently attempts to assert a claim or right that contradicts the terms of the deed. Estoppel by deed prevents the grantor from denying the truth of the statements made in the deed.

2. Equitable Estoppel: Equitable estoppel, also known as estoppel in pais, arises when one party makes a representation or promise to another party, who then relies on that representation or promise to their detriment. If the party who made the representation later attempts to deny or act contrary to it, they may be estopped from doing so.

3. Promissory Estoppel: Promissory estoppel occurs when one party makes a promise to another party, and the promisee relies on that promise to their detriment. Even if the promise lacks the necessary elements to create a legally binding contract, the promisor may still be estopped from going back on their promise.

Application of Estoppel in Real Estate: Estoppel can have various applications in real estate transactions. Some common scenarios where estoppel may come into play include:

1. Lease Agreements: Estoppel can be relevant in lease agreements when a landlord or tenant makes representations regarding the condition of the property or the terms of the lease. If the other party relies on these representations, the party making them may be estopped from later asserting a different position.

2. Boundary Disputes: Estoppel can also be invoked in boundary disputes when one party has consistently treated a certain boundary line as the true boundary, leading the other party to rely on this representation. The party making the representation may be estopped from claiming a different boundary line.

3. Property Sales: In property sales, estoppel can arise if a seller makes representations about the property’s condition or any encumbrances, and the buyer relies on these representations. If the seller later attempts to deny or contradict these representations, they may be estopped from doing so.


Estoppel in real estate serves as a vital legal principle that promotes fairness and prevents parties from taking advantage of their own inconsistent behavior or representations. It can have significant implications in various real estate transactions, including lease agreements, boundary disputes, and property sales. Understanding the different types of estoppel and their applications can help individuals navigate real estate transactions with greater clarity and fairness.


– Cornell Law School. (n.d.). Estoppel. Legal Information Institute. Retrieved from law.cornell.edu/wex/estoppel
– Riddall, J. G. (2018). Estoppel in Real Estate Transactions. The Estoppel Blog. Retrieved from estoppelblog.com/estoppel-in-real-estate-transactions