Define: Resolutory Condition

Resolutory Condition
Resolutory Condition
Quick Summary of Resolutory Condition

A resolutory condition refers to an uncertain event that, when it happens, ends an obligation that was already enforceable and returns the parties involved to their initial positions. For instance, if someone agrees to pay £500 to another person for fixing their car, the failure of the repair (which is an implied or constructive condition) releases the person from the obligation to pay. Another example of a resolutory condition is a lease agreement that terminates once the property is sold. When the property is sold, the lease agreement ends, and the parties are returned to their original positions. In summary, a resolutory condition is a condition that, upon fulfilment, terminates an already enforceable obligation and restores the parties to their original positions.

What is the dictionary definition of Resolutory Condition?
Dictionary Definition of Resolutory Condition

A resolutory condition refers to a future event that determines the existence of an obligation or liability. For instance, if someone agrees to cover the cost of a car repair, the failure to repair the car would release the person from the obligation to pay. A condition can also be a requirement or condition in a contract or other legal document. If a court interprets a contractual term as a condition, then the party to whom it is made will be released from all liabilities under the contract if the condition is not met or breached.

Full Definition Of Resolutory Condition

In the field of contract law, conditions are crucial in establishing the responsibilities and entitlements of the parties. Among these conditions, the “resolutory condition” (or condition subsequent) is especially significant. This legal overview explores the details of resolutory conditions, including their definition, application, and implications within the framework of British contract law.

Definition and Nature

A resolutory condition is a contractual clause that stipulates the termination of an existing obligation upon the occurrence of a specified event. Unlike suspensive conditions, which postpone the commencement of an obligation until a certain event occurs, resolutory conditions operate to dissolve obligations that are already in effect. This mechanism is designed to provide a clear and predictable method for concluding contractual relationships when predefined circumstances arise.

In essence, a resolutory condition functions as a contractual safeguard, ensuring that obligations do not persist beyond the point of relevance or practicality. This can be particularly useful in dynamic commercial environments where the conditions underpinning a contract may change rapidly.

Historical Context

The concept of resolutory conditions has deep roots in civil law traditions, notably within the French Code Civil, which has influenced many legal systems worldwide. However, in the context of British law, the principle has been adapted and integrated into the common law framework. This integration reflects a broader trend of blending civil law principles with common law doctrines to enhance the flexibility and robustness of contractual agreements.

Legal Framework

Under British contract law, the inclusion and enforcement of resolutory conditions are governed by several key principles and statutes. The primary legislative instruments include the Law of Property Act 1925, the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999, and the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977. These statutes provide the legal scaffolding within which resolutory conditions operate, ensuring that they are applied in a manner consistent with broader legal principles.

Key Elements of Resolutory Conditions

To effectively incorporate a resolutory condition into a contract, certain elements must be clearly defined and agreed upon by the parties:

  1. Specific Event: The contract must unambiguously identify the event or circumstance that will trigger the termination of the obligation. This event should be objectively verifiable to avoid disputes over its occurrence.
  2. Existing Obligation: There must be a clearly defined obligation in place that the resolutory condition will terminate. This ensures that the condition operates on an existing duty rather than creating ambiguity about the parties’ commitments.
  3. Automatic Termination: The occurrence of the specified event should automatically bring the obligation to an end without requiring further action from the parties. This automatic effect is crucial for maintaining clarity and certainty in contractual relationships.
  4. Legal Compliance: The resolutory condition must comply with existing legal standards and public policy. Conditions that are illegal, immoral, or against public policy will be deemed unenforceable by the courts.

Application in Contractual Agreements

Resolutory conditions can be applied in a wide range of contractual agreements, from commercial transactions to employment contracts. Their versatility makes them a valuable tool for managing risk and ensuring that contractual obligations remain relevant and enforceable over time.

  1. Commercial Contracts: In commercial transactions, resolutory conditions can help manage risks associated with changing market conditions or regulatory environments. For instance, a contract for the supply of goods may include a resolutory condition that terminates the supplier’s obligation if certain regulatory approvals are withdrawn.
  2. Employment Contracts: In employment agreements, resolutory conditions can provide clarity on the circumstances under which an employment relationship will end. For example, a contract may specify that employment will terminate automatically if the employee loses a necessary professional license.
  3. Leases and Tenancies: In property law, leases and tenancy agreements often incorporate resolutory conditions to manage the landlord-tenant relationship. A common example is a condition that terminates the lease if the tenant fails to pay rent for a specified period.

Case Law and Judicial Interpretation

The interpretation and enforcement of resolutory conditions have been shaped by various judicial decisions over the years. British courts have generally upheld the validity of resolutory conditions, provided they are clearly defined and do not contravene public policy.

  1. Case Example: Poussard v Spiers (1876): This case highlights the application of resolutory conditions in employment contracts. The court held that the condition in the actress’s contract, which terminated her employment upon failure to perform, was valid and enforceable.
  2. Case Example: Head v Tattersall (1871): This case involved the sale of a horse with a resolutory condition that allowed the buyer to return the horse if it did not meet specific criteria. The court upheld the condition, emphasizing the importance of clear and precise terms in contractual agreements.
  3. Case Example: Re Moore & Co. and Landauer & Co. (1921): This case examined the impact of resolutory conditions on commercial contracts. The court reinforced the principle that such conditions must be explicitly stated and objectively verifiable to be enforceable.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The use of resolutory conditions in contracts offers several advantages and potential drawbacks that parties should consider.


  1. Clarity and Predictability: Resolutory conditions provide a clear mechanism for terminating obligations, reducing the likelihood of disputes and litigation.
  2. Risk Management: They allow parties to manage risks associated with unforeseen events or changes in circumstances, ensuring that obligations remain relevant.
  3. Flexibility: Resolutory conditions offer flexibility in contractual relationships, allowing parties to adapt to changing conditions without renegotiating the entire contract.


  1. Complexity: Drafting precise and enforceable resolutory conditions can be complex and may require legal expertise.
  2. Potential for Disputes: Ambiguities in the definition or application of the resolutory condition can lead to disputes and litigation.
  3. Limited Application: Certain types of contracts or obligations may not be suitable for resolutory conditions, particularly where public policy considerations are involved.

Drafting Resolutory Conditions

The effective drafting of resolutory conditions requires careful consideration of several factors to ensure clarity and enforceability:

  1. Precision: The condition must be clearly and precisely defined, leaving no room for ambiguity. This includes specifying the exact event that will trigger the condition and the consequences of its occurrence.
  2. Objectivity: The triggering event should be objectively verifiable to avoid disputes over whether it has occurred. This may involve incorporating third-party verification mechanisms or clear documentary evidence.
  3. Legal Compliance: The condition must comply with all relevant legal standards and public policy considerations. Legal advice may be necessary to ensure that the condition does not contravene statutory requirements or established legal principles.
  4. Mutual Agreement: Both parties must agree to the resolutory condition, understanding its implications and consequences. This agreement should be explicitly documented in the contract to avoid future disputes.

Enforceability and Legal Remedies

The enforceability of resolutory conditions hinges on their clarity and adherence to legal standards. Courts will generally uphold such conditions if they are clearly defined, objectively verifiable, and legally compliant. However, if a resolutory condition is found to be ambiguous, illegal, or against public policy, it may be deemed unenforceable.

In cases where a resolutory condition is triggered, the parties may seek legal remedies to enforce or challenge the termination of the obligation. Common remedies include:

  1. Declaratory Relief: Parties may seek a court declaration on the validity and effect of the resolutory condition, providing clarity on their rights and obligations.
  2. Damages: If the termination of the obligation results in financial loss, parties may seek damages to compensate for their losses.
  3. Specific Performance: In some cases, parties may seek specific performance to enforce the terms of the contract, although this remedy is less common in the context of resolutory conditions.

Comparative Analysis

The application and interpretation of resolutory conditions can vary significantly across different legal systems. A comparative analysis reveals both similarities and differences in how these conditions are treated in civil law and common law jurisdictions.

  1. Civil Law Systems: In civil law countries such as France and Germany, resolutory conditions are well-established and widely used. These jurisdictions often have detailed statutory provisions governing the use and enforcement of such conditions, providing a high degree of predictability and consistency.
  2. Common Law Systems: In common law jurisdictions such as the United States and Canada, resolutory conditions are recognised but may be subject to different interpretive approaches. Courts in these jurisdictions often emphasise the need for clear and unambiguous drafting to ensure enforceability.
  3. International Context: In international contracts, the use of resolutory conditions may be influenced by a combination of legal traditions and the specific terms of the contract. International arbitration bodies often play a crucial role in interpreting and enforcing such conditions in cross-border disputes.


Resolutory conditions are an important tool in British contract law. They allow obligations to automatically end when certain events occur. To use them properly, it’s important to draft them carefully, define them clearly, and follow legal standards. While they offer advantages in terms of clarity, predictability, and risk management, they can also be complex and lead to disputes.

As business relationships continue to change in a fast-paced and globalised world, the importance of resolutory conditions is likely to increase. By understanding what they are, how they work, and what they mean, parties can better handle complex contract obligations and make sure their agreements remain relevant and enforceable over time.

In conclusion, resolutory conditions demonstrate the combination of flexibility and precision that defines modern contract law. They help parties manage their relationships with accuracy and foresight.

Resolutory Condition FAQ'S

A resolutory condition is a condition that, when fulfilled, terminates a legal obligation or contract.

Yes, a resolutory condition can be included in various types of contracts, such as lease agreements, sales contracts, or employment contracts.

If a resolutory condition is not fulfilled, the legal obligation or contract will continue to exist and remain in effect.

Yes, parties to a contract can agree to waive or modify a resolutory condition, as long as both parties consent to the change.

To be valid, a resolutory condition must be clear, specific, and not against public policy or illegal.

A resolutory condition can be either implied or explicitly stated in the contract, depending on the circumstances and the intent of the parties involved.

Yes, if a resolutory condition is clearly defined and the condition is not fulfilled, a court can enforce the termination of the legal obligation or contract.

Yes, a resolutory condition can be challenged or disputed if there is evidence that the condition was not fulfilled or if there is a disagreement about the interpretation of the condition.

No, a resolutory condition cannot be used to terminate a contract retroactively. It only applies to future events or circumstances.

In most cases, the termination of a contract due to a resolutory condition will have consequences and potential liabilities, such as the return of property or payment of damages. However, the specific consequences will depend on the terms of the contract and applicable laws.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 8th June 2024.

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