OPINION OF THE COURT
EAGEN, Chief Justice.
On June 25, 1963, Stephen E. and Jeanette B. Pendleton by written agreement gave the Pennsylvania Game Commission (Commission), for a stated consideration of $1.00, an option to buy 24.3 acres of farmland at $20.00 per acre. The Commission accepted the option on October 14, 1963, thus
Sometime after the execution of the second agreement the parties made an oral agreement wherein the Pendletons promised to cure the defect in title affecting the first tract and the Commission promised to pay $67.00 per acre for this tract as well. On May 20, 1969, the Pendletons obtained the missing signature and thereby cured the defect relating to the first tract.
Both written agreements contained the same provision: "If this option is so accepted, then the said Commission shall have such further time as it may deem necessary to cause the titles to be examined, to obtain approval of the titles by the Attorney General, to obtain surveys and to make payment according to the usual practice." [Emphasis added.] The survey was completed on June 9, 1969. On February 10, 1969, an independent attorney in Bradford County, whose name was on a list approved by the Commission, had been asked to search the titles and prepare abstracts for the land in question. On July 16, 1969, the Commission not having received the requested abstracts, the executive director of the Commission wrote the attorney and asked for a progress report. This letter produced no response, but the Commission did nothing further at that time.
On September 2, 1969, the Pendletons wrote a letter to the Commission stating that Mr. Pendleton's health had improved and he now wished to continue farming the land, and that they therefore wished "to withdraw our offer to sell our land at this time." On September 9, after receiving
On November 25, the executive director again wrote to the attorney requesting that, if the abstracts were not yet complete, the files be returned so that the work might be reassigned, since "we are now placed in an embarrassing position with the sellers." On December 12, having received no response from the attorney, the executive director arranged for representatives from the Commission to contact the attorney personally at his office to determine what the situation was. On December 22, the executive director received a report that the attorney had been contacted and that he "promised to make every effort to get this job done by the end of the year." On January 22, 1970, still not having received the promised abstracts, the executive director finally relieved the attorney of his duties. He had apparently done no work on them whatsoever. The task was then assigned to the Commission's own full-time abstractor, who completed them in about a month.
Although the abstracts were completed by the end of February, the Commission did not tender the purchase money due on the two contracts until April 30, 1970, and this tender was refused by the Pendletons. The Commission then brought an action in equity seeking specific performance of both contracts in the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County. After a series of hearings on the complaint, the chancellor concluded the contracts were unenforceable; exceptions were dismissed and the decree made
Before entering his decree refusing specific performance, the chancellor heard evidence of the "usual practice" both by the Commission and in Bradford County in general with regard to the settlement of contracts for the sale of land; the Pendletons also presented expert testimony, uncontradicted by the Commission, that the value of land in the area, and of the Pendletons' land in particular, had increased enormously within the period between the agreements of sale and the tender by the Commission of the purchase money. The chancellor concluded that the delay by the Commonwealth in this case was not consistent with the usual practice either of the Commission or in Bradford County and grossly exceeded a reasonable time under the circumstances; he further determined that the value of the land had nearly doubled between the time of acceptance and that of tender, that this was a "material change of circumstance," and that "the combination of unreasonable delay and change of circumstance" required a court of equity to deny specific performance.
The Commonwealth Court, on the other hand, reasoned as follows:
24 Pa.Cmwlth. at 606, 356 A.2d at 850.
We cannot agree with the rationale of the Commonwealth Court. The record clearly indicates that the failure of the Pendletons to cure the defect in title relating to the 24.3-acre tract affected that tract alone and had no bearing on the sale of the 667-acre tract which was negotiated in 1968.
It is apparent that the contracts involved instantly were not contracts in which time was of the essence. Nevertheless, it is well settled that even where time is not of the essence, the time for completion is not unlimited and must be reasonable under the circumstances. Wilcox v. Regester, 417 Pa. 475, 207 A.2d 817 (1965). The Commission
In our view, the chancellor correctly concluded that the Commission must bear the responsibility for the inaction of the attorney it selected. Well before the Pendletons wrote their letter seeking to withdraw their offers of sale, the Commission considered the completion of the abstracts to be overdue. After informing the Pendletons that they would be held to the contracts and assuring them that matters were being expedited and that settlement could be expected shortly, the Commission made only sporadic efforts to hurry the attorney along and apparently never ascertained the true status of the abstracts until the work was finally reassigned more than four months later. Although we assume the Pendletons were not entitled to withdraw from the contracts on September 2, the additional delay by the Commission of nearly eight months in doing what it had committed itself to do expeditiously was clearly unreasonable under the circumstances.
In Levy's Estate, 273 Pa. 148, 151, 116 A. 666, 667 (1922), this Court, quoting from section 408 of Pomeroy's Specific Performance of Contracts (2nd ed.) stated:
It is clear that the approximate doubling of value of the property in the interim is such a material circumstance.
Accordingly, the order of the Commonwealth Court is reversed, and the decree of the Court of Common Pleas is reinstated. Costs on the Commission.