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Legal Memorandum: Irrevocable Licenses to Use Property in CA

Issue: Does California law recognize irrevocable licenses to use property?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Property; Irrevocable licenses; Licensee's acts or conduct
Jurisdiction: California
Cited Cases: 76 Cal. App. 2d 740; 245 Cal. Rptr. 94; 22 Cal. Rptr. 36; 148 Cal. 516; 257 Cal. App. 384; 64 Cal. Rptr. 829; 239 P.2d 638; 83 P. 808; 204 Cal. App. 2d 160; 123 P.2d 483
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2005

As a general matter, “[a] license to use premises may be revoked at the pleasure of the licensor.”  Miller v. Desilu Prods., Inc., 204 Cal. App. 2d 160, 165, 22 Cal. Rptr. 36, 39 (1962).  However, the license may become irrevocable by the licensee’s acts or conduct.  When a licensee has expended money or its equivalent in labor executing the license in reliance upon the license, his or her rights under the license will continue as long as the nature of it calls for.  Bryant v. Marstelle, 76 Cal. App. 2d 740, 746, 173 P.2d 846, 850 (1946) (quoting Stoner v. Zucker, 148 Cal. 516, 520, 83 P. 808 (1906)).  Accord Hammond v. Mustard, 257 Cal. App. 384, 388, 64 Cal. Rptr. 829, 831 (1967).

In Noronha v. Stewart, 199 Cal. App. 3d 485, 245 Cal. Rptr. 94 (1988), the plaintiffs argued that the license was irrevocable based, in part, upon the fact that permission for the defendant to build the wall was never reduced to writing.  199 Cal. App. 3d at 490, 245 Cal. Rptr. at 96.  The court reasoned that although the grant of an easement need not be written, the oral promise in Noronha indeed may have lacked the formal requirements, such as consideration, necessary to the creation of an easement.  However, the grant was, undeniably, at least a license, and because the […]

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