(BAILII entry available here)

An exchange of emails satisfied the legal requirement for the sale of land to be in in writing and signed (section 2(1) Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989).

The claimant in this dispute sought specific performance of the sale of land. The agreement to sell had been reached in the context of another dispute and formed part of a compromise agreement documented by the exchange of solicitors emails. Seemingly, the defendant subsequently changed her mind. She sought to challenge the sale on the basis that the email exchange did not satisfy the legal technicalities for a land disposition which require the agreement to be in writing and signed.

The signatures on the relevant emails had been automatically applied, in the usual way. Was this significant when assessing whether or the emails had been “signed” ?

The court decided that it was not. The presence of the name indicated a clear intention to authenticate or sign the email’s contents. The contents of the email only appeared above the automatic name because of the writer’s conscious decision to insert its contents. “Many thanks” showed that the content was connected with the sign off. What’s more, the recipient had no way of knowing whether the name had been added automatically or the sender had manually entered his or her name.

The email had been signed and the claimants were entitled to the order for specific performance.

This finding is in line with earlier cases on guarantees and a recent report of the Law Commission intended to clarify the position.

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