Property Covenants Explained: What is a Covenant on a Property?

Everything You Need to Know About Property Covenants UK

property covenants

What is a Covenant on a House?

what is a covenant on a house

The deed to your property could refer to a covenant, but what is a covenant on a property and what does it mean for you as a homeowner?

When purchasing a property, you will also be purchasing the use of a piece of land, even if buying with leasehold. This land might have something called a covenant attached to it which will determine how it can be used. 

If you end up owning a property or land that is subject to covenants, it is essential that you fully understand your obligations, rights and options. 

To help you get a clearer idea of what property covenants are and how they can affect you, we’ve put together this informative guide. This guide to “what is a covenant on a property?”, will answer all your property covenant questions. 

What is a covenant? Can covenants be removed? How do you find a covenant on a property? What happens if you breach a covenant? We’ll answer all these questions and more. 

Let’s get started! Here’s your comprehensive guide to building covenants. 

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What is a Covenant?

property covenants

So, what is a covenant on a property? Let’s find out…

A property covenant is a rule, or set of rules, which state what can and cannot do as the owner of a certain piece of land. If you purchase a property with an existing covenant, it means that you have agreed to abide by the rules it sets out. 

Building covenants are usually added to properties to maintain some form of control over the uniformity of the area. This is designed to protect the surrounding land that you now own, and maintain the value and use of the land or property. 

Building covenants are usually created in a deed between two parties. One party agrees to restrict the use of its land in a particular way for the benefit of another’s land.

Different Types of Covenant

property covenants

There are two common types of property covenants: positive and negative. 

What is a Positive Covenant?

Positive covenants refer to obligations to do something. By agreeing to this type of covenant, you are agreeing to do something with the land you own, such as building or maintaining it, or contributing financially to shared space.

A positive covenant is tied to the owner who originally agreed to it rather than the land itself. This means that if the covenant is pre-existing, it may not have to be passed onto you when you sign the lease. 

You should ask your solicitor to help you understand whether a positive covenant has been passed onto you or not.  

What is a Restrictive Covenant?

By contrast, a restrictive covenant refers to a stipulation of what cannot be done with the property or land. By agreeing to this type of property covenant, you are agreeing to not do something specific with the land you own. 

For example, a restrictive covenant might put restrictions on what you can build or what you can use the property and land for. 

Unlike positive covenants, restrictive covenants are tied to the property and will be passed from owner to owner.

Property Covenant Examples

property covenants

Below we have outlined some covenant examples to help you get an idea of what to look out for when purchasing a property that might have covenants attached. 

Examples of common positive covenants include: 

  • You must erect and/or maintain a fence or wall on the boundary of the land 
  • You must contribute to the maintenance of a shared driveway

Examples of common restrictive covenants include: 

  • You cannot build extra structures on the land 
  • You cannot alter the property on the land 
  • You cannot keep non-domestic animals on the land
  • You cannot use the land for business  

Can Restrictive Covenants be Removed?

what is a covenant

If a restrictive covenant is in place on the property you are looking to purchase, it is sometimes possible to have it removed with the help of a commercial property solicitor or a property dispute lawyer. 

Although restrictive covenants might exist in the deed of your property, their origin might be so rooted in history that their purpose is no longer relevant or desired. 

The first step in finding out whether you can remove a restrictive covenant is finding out who has the ‘benefit’ of the covenant. This is usually the landowner, but, in some cases, it may have been passed to another entity or business. 

If you can agree to have the covenant lifted, a ‘Deed of Release of Restrictive Covenant’ should be drawn up and signed by the dominant and servient owners. 

Alternatively, if a restrictive covenant is in place, but the beneficiary is unknown, the covenant cannot be enforced, or it is simply unreasonable, it might be possible to request permission to have the restriction removed or modified by applying to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) which has the legal discretion to discharge or modify most restrictive covenants affecting land. 

The tribunal will seek to determine whether: 

  • The covenant ‘ought to be deemed to be obsolete’
  • ‘The continued existence thereof would impede the user of the land for public or private purposed’
  • The beneficiary consents to the discharge or change 
  • There will be damage to the beneficiary due to the loss or change of the covenant 

If you are looking to remove or change a restrictive covenant, you should seek professional legal advice via your conveyancing solicitor.

However, the downside to such an application is that it can be a very lengthy and pricey process, sometimes even taking up to two years.

How Long Does a Covenant Last on a Property?


If a property covenant is attached to the land it is said to ‘run with the land’. This means that it continues to apply to the land regardless of whether the burdened or neighbouring lands have been sold on. 

Therefore, a restrictive covenant can last indefinitely even if its purpose now appears obsolete.

Breach of Covenant Meaning


If you breach the property covenant attached to the land you own, there are multiple potential outcomes, regardless of whether you break it knowingly or accidentally. 

Any breach of covenant can be called out by the party that has the ‘benefit of the covenant’. It’s important to discover who has the benefit of the covenant when agreeing to them as they will be the people you have to answer to if you break it. 

So, what could happen if you breach a covenant?

  • Remove the offence – you will be made to get rid of the thing that goes against the covenant. This is the lightest outcome. 
  • Pay a fine – the fine could end up being thousands of pounds, depending on the type of offence. This will be paid to the person with the benefit of the covenant.
  • Legal action – you may be taken to court over breaking an agreed covenant. This is the most extreme outcome. 

However, none of the above outcomes are ideal. Therefore, it is important to be aware of any property covenants prior to making an offer on a property. You should also check what you’re likely to want to do with the property once moving in and whether you’ll be allowed. 

How to Find a Covenant on a Property

property covenants

If your property is registered, you should be able to view any associated building covenants on the Title Deeds. You can download a copy of the Title Deeds for your property by visiting the Land Registry website. 

If your property’s title is not available on the Land Registry website, you should be able to find any covenants affecting your property in the original Title Deeds.

Property Covenants Explained

Property covenants can be tricky to understand but they can have a huge impact on your rights when it comes to making amendments to your home. 

Hopefully, with this comprehensive guide to covenants on property, you will have a better idea of what to look for when purchasing your next property. 

Whether it’s positive covenants or restrictive covenants, it is essential that you know what a covenant is and what it could mean for you as a homeowner. 

If you need more help with property covenants, make sure you get in touch with your conveyancing solicitor. 


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