As I contemplate retirement after 42 years as a property solicitor, is there any chance that the government might now implement the Law Commission recommendations published in 2011 of (inter alia) making positive covenants enforceable against subsequent owners of a property?
I note from that report that the commission quotes Gerald Dworkin’s reference to this problem as ‘one of the major issues crying out for reform’, and that they previously made recommendations in 1984, which were ignored by the then government. Instead it introduced Commonhold, which appears to be largely irrelevant to most property transactions.
When I think of the time, effort and ingenuity expended by the profession in order to try and deal with this problem, I wonder why this obvious reform has been ignored for so long, when all law students are made aware of the difficulties that are created by the difference between positive and negative land covenants.
It appears that most of the responses to the commission’s report were positive, but in 2012 the Ministry of Justice said ‘the government’s consideration of this report has been delayed by work on other priorities’.
Maybe if the government had given priority to this rather than other more contentious issues, it might by now have implemented this and the other very sensible recommendations on land law in the report. The next generation of solicitors could then spend more time on dealing with transactions, and less on working out how to structure them.
Simon Howell, partner, Wedlake Bell, London WC1