Humphrey v Rogers [2017] HC

In the case of Humphrey v Rogers [2017], the defendants had sold part of their land to the claimants and lived on retained land nearby. The claimants had negotiated a restrictive covenant requiring the defendants to seek their permission before any future development. A restrictive covenant is the imposition of restrictions on land use so that the value of the land can be maintained and preserved. It was the claimants’ purpose to live a secluded rural life and had purchased the adjoining land on the premise of the restrictive covenant.

The defendants breached the covenant having twice converted barns for use as residential dwellings without permission from the claimants. The defendants admitted that this constituted a breach of the covenant. The claimants therefore sought an injunction to halt construction. It was for the court to consider if an injunction was the appropriate remedy, or whether damages would be sufficient. The trial judge calculated that the claimants would have been entitled to £195,000 in damages. However, given the circumstances of the case, this would not be an appropriate remedy. An injunction was awarded in the first instance preventing continued works and sales of the completed residential units.

The defendants appealed, claiming the judgment in Coventry v Lawrence [2014] UKSC 13, indicated that the application of the ‘Shelfer test’ – Shelfer v City of London Electric Lighting Co (No.1) [1985] 1 Ch. 287 – should result in an award of damages in lieu of an injunction. Mrs. J Slade of the High Court upheld the original judgment. The injunction was not considered to be ‘oppressive’ to the defendants as they had agreed to the terms of the restrictive covenant. It was the claimants’ objective to use the covenant to protect their quiet rural life, not to ransom money from development. However, she did modify the wording of the injunction to better reflect the terms of the restrictive covenant, as the trial judge was considered to have gone beyond its scope.

Conclusion

The judgment of Coventry v Lawrence [2014] UKSC 13 indicated that the award of damages is no longer limited to exceptional circumstances. It followed that there was an argument to be made that an injunction could therefore only be made in exceptional circumstances. However, the judgment of Humphrey v Rogers [2017] HC has confirmed that the award of an injunction is not restricted for? award in exceptional circumstances. It also emphasises the significance of the conduct of the parties. The defendants’ conduct was described as ‘reprehensible’ and unneighbourly by the trial judge. Additionally, it highlights the significance of restrictive covenants and their ability to be enforced with an injunction.

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