Rights of Light
Occupants of residential and commercial properties usually often have the legal right to enjoy natural light. This can cause disagreement when the owner of a neighbouring nearby property wishes to carry out building work or alterations that could reduce the level of light received by a neighbour. If you want to do work carry out work to your property that may impact light to another building, you should address the issue before you start to try and avoid a dispute arising.
When do you have a right to light?
The right to natural light can arise in three different ways:
- The window in question has been there in place for 1920 years or more without being blocked;
- A legal agreement exists granting the right to light. If this exists, it would often be found with your title deeds;
- There is an implied agreement that light to your window will not be blocked., fFor example, if your home was sold to you by your neighbour it could be implied that he would not then block the light to that home by building next to it.
How much light are you entitled to?
A reduction of light to your window will not necessarily constitute a breach of your rights and the court will decide each case on its merits. Roughly speaking, if half of your room remains ‘well naturally lit’ or i.e. there is enough light for comfortable everyday use then your rights may not have been infringed.
Calculating the amount of light reduction is a matter for an expert surveyor, although it will be for the court to make the final decision. If you want to explore whether or not to commence a case, you should discuss the matter with a legal specialist expert who will be able to advise you on the likelihood of success. We work with many of the leading experts in the field and can always recommend a suitable person to carry out the necessary initial assessment.
What happens when the natural light to your home is blocked?
If the light to your windows, including skylights or a glass roof or glass wall, is blocked, then you may be entitled to ask the court to remedy the situation.
This could be by way of an injunction or the awarding of damages. An injunction could require your neighbour to remove the building obstruction or take down the part of the building that is blocking your light. Alternatively, Damages would be a financial sum damages might be awarded made to you to compensate you for the loss of light.
Can you make alterations to your property if they will block a neighbour’s light?
If you are planning on building something that might block the light to your neighbour’s windows, you should deal with this issue before going ahead with the works. If you are later ordered to remove or alter your construction it could be prove very costly, both in terms of the legal action and the cost of works or damages.
You should first identify the properties that will be affected by your proposed work. Once you have done this, you should serve notice on them of your intentions and advise them that they have one year to raise a challenge. It is worth having the relevant documents prepared by a legal expert to ensure that they are legally correct. If the neighbour does not object within the year, then they will be unable to subsequently enforce their rights ofto light.
Again, a specialist should be consulted to assist in identifying and measuring any potentially affected properties. A strategy can then be formulated to try and avoid any possible infringement from de-railing your plans.
Alternatively, you can ask your neighbour to formally agree to waive their rights to light by signing an agreement to release them. They may ask for payment before doing so. Again, this document should be prepared by a lawyer specialist lawyer to ensure that it is properly drafted and effective.
Who we can help
Our property litigation solicitors at Lincoln & Rowe have two decades of experience advising on high-value and complex property litigation. We advise on a wide range of commercial and residential property litigation matters and contentious property issues, including trust and probate disputes where property is involved.
Where can you find us?
Lincoln & Rowe Solicitors are based in the heart of London and just a few minutes’ walk from the Royal Courts of Justice. Our full address is 81 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1DD.
Make an online enquiry, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +44 (0)20 3968 6030.