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The doctrine of benefit and burden: reforming the law of covenants and the numerus clausus “problem”

Bevan, Chris


Chris Bevan


The doctrine of benefit and burden - an indirect method for enforcing the burden of positive freehold covenants – developed as an exception the strict Austerberry rule that the burden of positive covenants cannot bind successors directly at law. Three recent Court of Appeal cases (Davies v Jones; Wilkinson v Kerdene and Elwood v Goodman) confirm the continued existence and application of the doctrine but also reveal its deficiencies and limitations. This article explores the contemporary application of the doctrine, identifies its theoretical, historical and elemental frailty and, drawing on recent reform proposals of the Law Commission, highlights the case for reform. In so doing, this article argues that a vital theoretical issue has been overlooked in the reform debate: the numerus clausus principle.


Bevan, C. (2018). The doctrine of benefit and burden: reforming the law of covenants and the numerus clausus “problem”. Cambridge Law Journal, 77(1), 72-96.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 11, 2018
Online Publication Date Mar 19, 2018
Publication Date Mar 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jan 12, 2018
Publicly Available Date Mar 1, 2018
Journal Cambridge Law Journal
Print ISSN 0008-1973
Electronic ISSN 1469-2139
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 77
Issue 1
Pages 72-96
Keywords property; benefit and burden; freehold covenants; positive obligations; numerus clausus
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article has been published in a revised form in Cambridge Law Journal []. This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge Law Journal and contributors 2018.


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