A covenant is essentially a contract between the covenantor (the owner of the burdened land) and the covenantee (the owner of the land which takes the benefit).
As a result of a legal principle called “privity of contract”, the covenant will always be enforceable as between the original covenantor and covenantee, even after either or both have parted with the land in question.
What this means is that if a deed grants the owner of a property the right to, for example, use a private road but the same deed also contains a covenant to contribute toward the cost of the upkeep of the road then the owner cannot exercise the right to use the road without contributing to its upkeep. The burden of covenants contained in a lease will generally run therefore granting a lease out of the freehold title instead of simply conveying the freehold title is a useful way to ensure the covenants remain enforceable. An estate rentcharge can be imposed, whereby the owner of the property is obliged to contribute an annual sum toward the repair and maintenance of shared facilities.
The same legal principle however (which simply means that a contract is private and binding only on the contracting parties) means that covenants are not always binding on or do not always benefit future owners.
For a covenant to continue to be enforceable after the original parties have parted with the land involved, both the benefit and the burden must “run with the land” at either common law or in equity.
The rules which dictate whether the benefit and burden run differ depending on whether the covenant is positive or negative.
There are two basic systems of law in England & Wales – common law and equity.