Smith and Snipes Hall Farm Ltd v River Douglas Catchment Board [1949] 2 KB 500

Property law – Covenant running with the land


The defendant was a catchment board and covenanted with the owner of land, which was subject to flooding. It did so on the basis that they were the local drainage authority as per the Land Drainage Act 1930. The defendant agreed to replace the outfall and to enlarge the banks of the river as well as maintain this once the work was complete. Two years later, in 1940, one of the covenantees under the agreement transferred her land to the first plaintiff. The second plaintiff was a company that rented the land from the first plaintiff. Occasionally the banks of the river would breach but in 1946, the banks of the river burst and caused significant flooding to the plaintiff’s land. The plaintiffs subsequently claimed against the defendant for damages for breach of contract and in tort.


The court was required to answer whether the covenant could pass from the original owner of the land to the plaintiffs in this case. If so, it would enable them to rely on the covenant in establishing the breach of its terms for the damage caused to the land as a result of the river bank being burst.


The court held that the defendant board had breached the contract and this breach had caused the damage to the plaintiff’s land that had been complained of. The court looked to the language of the agreement between the original land owner and the catchment board and found intention that the obligation to maintain the land would pass to all future owners. On this basis, the plaintiffs could enforce their rights under the original covenant.