A covenant that is so related to an estate in land that the benefit passes to a purchaser or assignee of the land and may be enforced at law. "In Underhill on Landlord and Tenant, p. 614, § 387, it is said: 'Covenants are classified into real and personal covenants. Real covenants are those that are annexed to the estate and which are incidents of its ownership and enjoyment irrespective of the fact that the original parties to the covenant are no longer in possession thereof. Such covenants are usually to
be performed on land and are therefore said to run with the land.'" Lincoln Fireproof Warehouse Co. v. Greusel, 191 Wis 428, 224 NW 98, 101, 70 ALR 1096, 1099 (1929). A real covenant is one that can be said to 'touch and concern' the land (a covenant 'running with the land'), and, therefore, may be enforced by a successor to the promisee's estate, or enforceable against a successor to the promisor's estate, provided the successor has notice of the covenant and it is intended to bind the successor.
A real covenant may arise between a landlord and tenant (a 'landlord and tenant covenant'); or between fee owners or neighbors (sometimes called a 'vendor and purchaser covenant' as
it usually arises upon a sale of land). A positive covenant may be enforced at law and hence the remedy is one for damages; as distinguished from an 'equitable restriction' or equitable servitude that is only enforceable in equity and for which the remedy may be an injunction to prevent a breach of the covenant, or specific performance to require compliance with the covenant.
A real covenant is enforceable, as with any covenant, between parties to the agreement. It is enforceable between a landlord and tenant provided there is privity of estate between the parties. However, the extent to which a real covenant is enforceable by or against a new owner of the land varies between jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions follow the common law principles that depend to a large degree on whether it is the benefit or burden that is being enforced (viz. restrictive covenant).
Other jurisdictions take a more liberal view that a covenant should be enforced so long as it 'touches and concerns' the land, i.e. it is not purely personal. Whereas other jurisdictions take the view that any covenant that impedes the free use of land should only be enforced when it is for the
benefit of several landowners. All jurisdictions accept this latter principle when a real covenant is part of a scheme of development. A real covenant may be an 'affirmative' or positive covenant, or a 'restrictive' or negative covenant.
A real covenant may be distinguished from an easement, as a covenant is a promise respecting the use (or 'non-use') of land, whereas an easement is a grant or reservation of an interest in land that permits someone to go onto land and do something. A real covenant must be created expressly; it cannot arise by implication or prescription. Sometimes called a 'running covenant'. cf. personal covenant. See also privity of estate,
R.A. Cunningham et al. The Law of Real Property (2d ed. 1993), §§ 8.14-8.21.
20 Am.Jur.2d., Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, § 29 et seq.
7 Thompson on Real Property (2d ed. 1994), Ch. 61 'Real Covenants', §§ 62.03-62.09.
5 Powell on Real Property, §§ 670-673.
Tiffany on Real Property (3d ed. 1939), § 3.
39(2) Halsbury's Laws of England, Real Property (4th ed. Reissue), para. 2.