House of Commons Library

Covenants on freehold land

Published Wednesday, May 8, 2019

This Library briefing paper provides general information about the freehold covenants. Specifically, detecting, enforcing, modifying or releasing a covenant.

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Freehold land can be registered at HM Land Registry or unregistered (i.e. the owner of the land will have in their possession a bundle of deeds). Freehold land can be affected by third-party interests, including covenants.

Freehold land can be subject to positive or restrictive covenants. In the simplest of terms, a covenant is a rule governing what can and cannot be done on the land which is burdened with the covenant. A positive covenant imposes an obligation to carry out some positive action in relation to land or requires expenditure of money. A restrictive covenant (also known as a negative covenant) consists of an agreement in a deed that one party will restrict the use of its land in some way for the benefit of another’s land.

This distinction between positive and restrictive covenants is important. The burden (i.e. the obligation to observe a covenant) does not generally bind successors in title where a covenant is positive in nature, but it may do so if the covenant is restrictive.

This Library briefing paper provides general information about the freehold covenants. Specifically, detecting, enforcing, modifying or releasing a covenant.  

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8560

Author: Lorraine Conway

Topics: Civil law, Housing, Land law, Owner occupation

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