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Agency by Estoppel

A situation in which a reasonable person may assume agency agreement exists when it does not. For example, if a person or company allows another person or company to use proprietary letterhead to send out correspondence, agency by estoppel may exist. Because the agency is assumed, the (presumed) principal may be legally bound by the agent's actions.


A doctrine that stops one from denying facts or taking a course of action because it would be unfair under the circumstances.It may be because someone else relied on former statements regarding the facts or because someone else relied upon a situation allowed to exist by a party, so that the party cannot now be allowed to change that situation.The concept commonly arises in three situations:

1. Before the sale of an income-producing property, the tenants sign estoppel certificates acknowledging they have no claims against the landlord, no defenses to any of the terms or conditions of their lease, and no outside or “side” agreements varying the terms of the lease. After the sale, the tenant cannot claim otherwise, even if all parties agree that there has been a wrong done to the tenant by the prior landlord and the tenant would otherwise be able to cancel the lease if it were not for the estoppel certificate.

2. A subdivision with restrictive covenants grows lax in the enforcement of them and per- mits many violations over the years regarding, for example, parking boats and motor homes in driveways. If one buys a home in the subdivision and keeps a motor home in the driveway, the principle of estoppel will prevent the homeowners association from suddenly deciding to enforce that particular covenant.

3. A government employee tells someone one thing, and it later turns out to be wrong. The citizen has already taken action on the incorrect information. In most circumstances, courts will not allow estoppel against a government or government agency.