Property disputes

A property dispute is common within property law, and will occur frequently over ownership rights. If you are currently involved in a property dispute, call us and we can discuss your options with you, including mediation, negotiating an out of court settlement, or getting you representation for a litigation case or an injunction.


Covenants are a common cause of dispute on both leasehold and freehold land. On freehold land, a covenant is simply a promise made in a deed. A covenant is usually made when the owner of a piece of land sells part and retains part of the land. The seller may not want the buyer to use the land in a way that can affect the seller’s retained land, so they may impose covenants on the land.

A covenant can be either:

  • Positive
  • Restrictive

A positive covenant requires the land owner to do something to, or on, the property. A property dispute will frequently occur with positive covenants as they do not ‘run with the land’ - meaning that once the original owner sells the property, the covenant applies to them rather than to the person he has sold the land to under the law of contract.

Therefore, when the person that entered into the original covenant sells the land, they will usually ask the buyer to guarantee that they will continue to uphold the positive covenant. In the event that they do not uphold the positive covenant, the landowner is required to sue the previous land owner, who can then sue the current land owner.

Particular problems arise when the land has changed hands lots of times.

Family law and property disputes

Another common form of property dispute is one in which a matrimonial home is in the sole legal name of a spouse. The problem is that in the event of a dispute between the husband and wife, one could seek to exclude the other from the house, relying on the fact that they have the sole legal ownership.

The law attempts to prevent property disputes by giving the spouse a statutory right of occupation. A spouse or civil partner may not be excluded from the family home without a court order. If the right to occupation is not registered, then it will not bind the buyer; however rights can be registered right up to completion so much time and money can be wasted by failing to properly investigate the property before exchange of contracts.

Property disputes over ownership can also occur when another person living in the house has contributed to the purchase price of the property, but is not the legal owner. This type of interest is an equitable interest and in registered land would be binding on a buyer of the land as ‘an overriding interest’.

In order to prevent a dispute arising in the future because of another person having an interest in the land, it is important that a prospective buyer investigates the exact status of each occupier of the property.

If you are involved in a property dispute, seeking early legal advice may mean that you can avoid expensive court fees in your case progressing to the litigation stage. If your case has already reached the litigation stage and you require representation, see our information page on property litigation.

Call us for free on 0800 533 5787 or use the web-form to the right to speak to an advisor who can put you in touch with the right solicitor for your needs.

Important information

For [selected AoL] law, solicitors will charge a minimum fee of £250 to provide an initial consultation and written opinion on your case. We have a number of recommended law firms in our network who could provide this service to you at the most competitive price. If you would like to proceed, click ‘Paid advice’ below and one of our advisors will call you on a free-of-charge basis to discuss this further with you.