Rhone and Another v Stephens: HL 17 Mar 1994

A house was divided, the house being retained along with the roof over the cottage, and giving a covenant to repair the roof on behalf of the owner of the house. The cottage owner sought to enforce the covenant against a later owner of the house.
Held: His appeal was dismissed. Equity can enforce negative covenants on a freehold against subsequent owners, but not the burden of positive burdens. Such a burden did not pass with the land. To allow the enforcement would go against the common law rule preventing a third party enforcing a contract to which he was not party. The burden of a positive covenant will not be enforced against the covenantor’s successors in title, and nothing in section 79 has the effect of causing the burden of a positive covenant to run with the land.
Lord Templeman said: ‘Conditions can be attached to the exercise of a power in express terms or by implication. Halsall v. Brizell was just such a case and I have no difficulty in wholeheartedly agreeing with the decision. It does not follow that any condition can be rendered enforceable by attaching it to a right nor does it follow that every burden imposed by a conveyance may be enforced by depriving the covenantor’s successor in title of every benefit which he enjoyed thereunder. The condition must be relevant to the exercise of the right.’ and ‘Restrictive covenants deprive an owner of a right which he could otherwise exercise. Equity cannot compel an owner to comply with a positive covenant entered into by his predecessors in title without flatly contradicting the common law rule that a person cannot be made liable upon a contract unless he was a party to it. Enforcement of a positive covenant lies in contract; a positive covenant compels an owner to exercise his rights. Enforcement of a negative covenant lies in property; a negative covenant deprives the owner of a right over property.’

Lord Templeman, Lord Oliver of Aylmerton, Lord Woolf, Lord Lloyd, Lord Nolan
Independent 23-Mar-1994, Times 18-Mar-1994, [1994] 2 WLR 429, [1994] 2 AC 310, [1994] UKHL 3, [1994] 2 All ER 65
England and Wales
CitedAusterberry v Oldham Corporation CA 1882
Land was conveyed to trustees, they covenanting to maintain and repair it as a road. The covenant was given to the owners and their heirs and assigns, and was given on behalf of the covenantors and their heirs and assigns.
Held: Neither the . .
Appeal fromRhone and Another v Stephens CA 17-Mar-1993
A house had been divided. The original owner covenanted to repair the roof over the part which had been sold off. A later purchaser of the that part sought to enforce the covenant against a subsequent owner of the main house. At first instance the . .
CitedHalsall v Brizell ChD 1957
Land in Liverpool was sold in building plots. The vendors retained the roads and sewers and a promenade and sea wall. A separate deed of covenant of 1851 between the vendors and the owners of the plots which had by then been sold, recited that the . .
CitedSpencer’s Case 1583
An assignee of a lease will take both the benefit and burden of the covenants in the lease provided that there is privity of estate as between the person enforcing the covenant and the person against whom enforcement is sought, and the covenant . .
CitedTulk v Moxhay 22-Dec-1848
Purchaser with notice bound in Equity
A, being seised of the centre garden and some houses in Leicester Square, conveyed the garden to B in fee, and B covenanted for himself and his assigns to keep the garden unbuilt upon.
Held: A purchaser from B, with notice of the covenant, was . .
CitedHaywood v The Brunswick Permanent Benefit Building Society CA 1881
The land had been conveyed in consideration of a rent charge and a covenant to build and repair buildings.
Held: A mortgagee of the land was not liable on the covenant either at law or in equity even though he had notice of it.
Brett LJ . .
CitedCooke v Chilcott 1876
The purchaser of land with a well covenanted to erect a pump and reservoir and to supply water from the well to all houses built on the vendor’s land. Enforcement was sought against a purchaser.
Held: He had purchased with notice of the . .
CitedCox v Bishop 1857
The lease was assigned to a man of straw.
Held: The covenants in the lease could not be enforced against an equitable assignee of the lease who had entered into possession. The covenants were not enforceable because there was no privity of . .
CitedLondon and South Western Railway Co v Gomm CA 1882
A grant was given to repurchase property, but was void at common law for the uncertainty of the triggering event.
Held: The ‘right’ to ‘take away’ the claimants’ estate or interest in the farm was immediately vested in the grantee of the right . .
CitedMorland v Cook CA 1868
Land below sea level was partitioned by a deed with a covenant that the expense of maintaining the sea wall should be borne by the owners of the lands and payable out of the lands by an acre-scot.
Held: The covenant was enforced against a . .
CitedIn re Nisbet and Potts’ Contract 1905
Where a party asserted he was a purchaser in good faith without notice and for value, the burden of proving all the elements of the defence is upon the purchaser. A title acquired by adverse possession was not paramount to, and did not destroy the . .
CitedHalsall v Brizell ChD 1957
Land in Liverpool was sold in building plots. The vendors retained the roads and sewers and a promenade and sea wall. A separate deed of covenant of 1851 between the vendors and the owners of the plots which had by then been sold, recited that the . .
CitedJones v Price 1965
Willmer LJ said: ‘a covenant to perform positive acts . . is not one the burden of which runs with the land so as to bind the successors in title of the covenantor: see Austerberry v. Oldham Corporation.’ and ‘ . . properly speaking, an easement . .
CitedTophams Ltd v Earl of Sefton HL 1967
Section 79 of the Law of Property Act (relating to the burden of covenants) achieved no more than the introduction of statutory shorthand into the drafting of covenants. It does does not have the effect of causing covenants to run with the land . .
CitedTito v Waddell (No 2); Tito v Attorney General ChD 1977
Equity applies its doctrines to the substance, not the form, of transactions. In respect of the rule against self dealing for trustees ‘But of course equity looks beneath the surface, and applies its doctrines to cases where, although in form a . .

Cited by:
CitedAllied London Industrial Properties Limited v Castleguard Properties Limited CA 24-Jul-1997
The parties disputed the effect of a conveyance of land from 1985 and an associated deed of variation. The variation added an easement which was argued by the purchaser to have attached to the land, and was said by the vendor to have been personal . .
CitedCantrell v Wycombe District Council CA 29-Jul-2008
The appellant had bought a house at auction. It had previously been sold by a local authority subject to a covenant by the buyer allowing the authority to nominate tenants. The covenant was said to be binding on successors in title, and was . .
CitedDavies and Others v Jones and Another CA 9-Nov-2009
The parties contracted for the sale of land for development. The contract allowed for the costs of environmental remediation, but disputed the true figure set by the eventual builder and retained. The court now heard argument about whether the sum . .
CitedCGIS City Plaza Shares 1 Ltd and Another v Britel Fund Trustees Ltd ChD 13-Jun-2012
The claimants asserted a right of light either by prescription or under lost modern grant. The defendants argued that alterations in the windows arrangements meant that any prescription period was restarted.
Held: ‘the Defendant is not correct . .
CitedBath Rugby Ltd v Greenwood and Others CA 21-Dec-2021
This appeal concerns the question whether an area of land in Bath known as the Recreation Ground, commonly called ‘the Rec’, is still subject to a restrictive covenant imposed in a conveyance of the Rec dated 6 April 1922 (‘the 1922 conveyance’). . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Equity, Land

Leading Case

Updated: 22 December 2021; Ref: scu.88768