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More About the Tennessee Statute of Frauds

Last week’s blog dealt with the role of the Statute of Frauds in Tennessee real estate litigation.  The statute of frauds requires that contracts for the sale of real estate be memorialized by a writing or by a combination of writings which the court determines sufficiently describe the property conveyed.

Here are some cases, and a brief summary of their facts, where Tennessee courts have held that the writing(s) at issue was insufficient to comply with the statute of frauds:

Gorbics v. Close, 722 S.W.2d 672 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1986): A writing which described the property to be conveyed as follows: “a one acre tract of land on the northwest corner of my land. . . .”

Baliles v. Cities Service Co., 578 S.W.2d 621 (Tenn. 1979): A writing which described the property as “lots 99 and 100 in Cherokee Hills” was insufficient.

Massey v. Hardcastle, 753 S.W.2d 127 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1988): Seller had paper with address of the property to be sold at the top of the paper which purported to memorialize agreement for sale of real estate. At the bottom, the paper stated that “seller will transfer its tenantcy [sic] to the buyer,” but did not further identify the tenancy to be transferred.

Here are some cases, and a brief summary of their facts, where Tennessee courts have held that the writing(s) at issue was sufficient to comply with the statute of frauds:

             Rogers v. Roop, 92 S.W.2d 423 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1936): Where deed described land as “the lot, a parcel of ground, situated in Knoxville, Tennessee, known and described under house Nos. 1209 and 1211 Western Avenue.”

Brown v. Mays, 241 S.W.2d 871 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1951): Where writing described the property as “located in the city of Nashville, or suburbs, and fronting 50 feet on Hillsboro Road at 2211 Hillsboro Street, and being the property of said A. J. and Claire Brown, a brick store, newly erected.”

Kirshner v. Feigenbaum, 176 S.W.2d 806 (Tenn. 1944): Where property was described as “[o]ffice space in Exchange Building located at 311 Church Street, and being Office No. 209, and storage space in the basement.”   Although no state was identified, the Supreme Court noted that the chances that an Exchange Building at the same address, with an available office known as 209, in another city was too remote.

Harris v. Morgan, 7 S.W.2d 53 (Tenn. 1928): This case establishes that language in a will, even if it does not specifically identify the real property, may satisfy the statute of frauds.  If you are met with a statute of frauds defense and can rely on language in a will to show a written agreement to convey real estate, you should definitely review this case.