The law relating to covenants, easements and ‘profits à prendre’ over land is a relatively complex area given that such rights are common – the Land Registry has suggested that nearly two thirds of properties have some sort of easement over them and nearly 80 per cent have a covenant of some sort.
An easement is a right enjoyed by one landowner over the land of another. A positive easement (such as a right of way) is a right to go onto or make use of something in or on a neighbour's land. A negative easement is essentially a right to receive something (such as light or support) from the land of another without obstruction or interference.
Covenants are promises made with regard to land (i.e. not to allow it to be used for stated purposes).
Profits à prendre allow the holder the right to remove products of natural growth from another's land. Shooting and fishing rights come under this category.
Following an earlier consultation on the subject, the Law Commission has stepped in to reform the current system by proposing a simpler system for dealing with covenants and easements. It has issued a consultation paper which aims to remove anomalies and complications in the law. However, the proposed changes are limited to private law rights and will not deal with rights available to the public at large, such as rights of way, or with covenants between landlords and their tenants.