No. 2822 October Term, 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, of Bucks County, in Equity, Civil No. 76-5901, Dated October 30, 1978.
Leonard B. Rosenthal, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Jay H. Karsch, Doylestown, for appellees.
Price, Hoffman and Dowling, JJ.*fn*
[ 275 Pa. Super. Page 15]
Appellant's contentions may be summarized as follows: (1) the lower court applied an improper standard in evaluating appellees' claim of partial performance of an oral contract; and (2) appellees failed to sustain their burden of proof of part performance.*fn1 We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the order of the court below.
Appellant, Robert Briggs, and his wife are record owners of a home located at 167 Lower Orchard Drive, Levittown, Pennsylvania. Appellees, Winfield and Emma Sackett, have occupied the home since 1962. Mrs. Briggs and Mrs. Sackett are sisters.*fn2
The Briggs purchased the Orchard Drive home in 1955, making a $100.00 down payment and borrowing the balance of the $11,600 purchase price on a 30 year mortgage. The monthly carrying charge on the mortgage was $82.57. In late 1961, the Briggs vacated the home and, several months thereafter, in 1962, the Sacketts moved in. At that time, the Sacketts paid three months arrearages on the Briggs' mortgage and a delinquent water bill. The Sacketts have continued to occupy the Orchard Drive home until the
[ 275 Pa. Super. Page 16]
present, paying the monthly carrying charge on the mortgage and other expenses relating to the property.
On June 23, 1976, Robert Briggs filed an ejectment action in equity against the Sacketts. The Sacketts responded that, although the Briggs were record owners of the home, the Sacketts were the equitable owners by virtue of an oral agreement of sale entered into in 1962. They further contended that, in 1961, the Briggs were in financial difficulty and did not wish the house sold at sheriff's sale because of the absence of a resale market for Levitt homes at that time. The alleged consideration for the sale of the home was the payment of the mortgage arrearages and water bill by the Sacketts. The Sacketts therefore entered a counterclaim for specific performance of the oral contract. Robert Briggs denied the existence of an agreement and alleged that the relief sought in the counterclaim was barred by the statute of frauds.
The chancellor found that an agreement between the parties existed which was removed from the statute of frauds by the doctrine of part performance. Consequently, she ordered the Briggs to execute a deed conveying the premises to the Sacketts. Robert Briggs' exceptions to the chancellor's decree were denied by the lower court en banc. The en banc court agreed with the chancellor's finding of part performance by virtue of the reliance of the Sacketts upon the oral contract and their performance pursuant to that contract. Robert Briggs then took this appeal.
The statute of frauds provides that oral contracts for the sale of land are invalid. 33 P.S. § 1. Where, however, the party seeking to enforce the conveyance has partially performed the contract, so as to render recission inequitable and unjust, the contract may be outside the operation of the statute. See, e. g., Hancock v. Melloy, 187 Pa. 371, 41 A. 313 (1898). "[I]t is well settled that the statute prevents the entry of a decree of specific performance against the vendor under the oral ...