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J Sainsbury plc v Enfield LBC

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J Sainsbury plc v Enfield LBC [1989] 1 W.L.R. 590

LAND LAW – BENEFIT OF A RESTRICTIVE COVENANT – ASSESSING INTENTION

Facts

An individual had conveyed part of his land to the first claimant, subject to restrictive covenants stated to be binding on the latter’s successors in title. The second claimant agreed to buy the land from the first claimant, subject to a declaration that the land was no longer subject to any covenants in favour of the individual’s successors in title. The claimants sought this declaration from the court.

Issue

Restrictive covenants are a type of property right in land usually preventing the owner of the land from making particular uses of it, for the benefit of the person in whose favour the covenant was made. The burden and the benefit of the covenant may bind the original parties’ successors in title if certain conditions are met.

The issue in this case was whether benefit of the relevant covenants was annexed to the land such that the original owner’s successors in title were entitled to it, and what evidence might be taken into account to assess this.

Held

The High Court granted the declaration.

The Court held that to determine whether the benefit of the covenant ran with the land, it should be assessed whether there are any facts from which it might be inferred that the intention of the conveyance of the land was that the covenants should be available for the benefit of the retained land.

When determining this, the court may only consult evidence of intention which manifests in the document of conveyance containing the covenant, construed in the light of any surrounding circumstances which necessitate particular implications being made. Surrounding circumstances which do not lead to necessary implications may not be taken into account when assessing intention.

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