Renals v Cowlishaw

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Last modified: 12/10/18 Author: In-house law team

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Renals v Cowlishaw (1879) 11 Ch D 866

Property law – Restrictive covenant


The predecessors of the defendants purchased part of a residential estate, and the adjacent lands from a land owner. The parties had agreed covenants that restricted the defendant’s rights to build on the land that had been purchased as well as other restrictions as to the use of the land. Later, the same land owner sold the remainder of the estate to the plaintiff, with no mention of the restrictive covenants that were previously agreed in the defendant’s transaction. The initial decision of the court found that the plaintiffs could not rely on the covenants in the agreement on the basis that there was no contract or representation that the purchasers would have a benefit from them. The plaintiffs appealed the decision.


The court was required to establish whether the covenant in the conveyance between the parties, could be relied upon to restrict the use of the land that had been purchased by the plaintiffs. There had been no mention of the covenant throughout the transfer of the land and therefore, the court was required to decide whether it would be reasonable to impose this on the plaintiff.


The court dismissed the appeal of the plaintiffs. The plaintiff could not rely on the covenant to restrict the defendants from building on the property as the covenant had not passed in law with the land from their predecessors. It is also worth noting that each of the judges emphatically supported the decision of Vice-Chancellor Hall who was the judge at the initial trial.

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