Do you have a ‘Right to Light’?

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If a development project is coming to your street and threatening to put you in the shade, make sure that you know your ‘Right to Light’.

What is meant by ‘Right to Light’?

The law talks about the right to enjoy light that crosses a neighbour’s land before entering a window, skylight or glass roof into your property. Being granted this right allows you access to enough light so that your room can be used for whatever you had planned. For example, you would be entitled to more natural light for your conservatory than you would for your garage.

What exactly do your rights include?

In terms of the law, you aren’t allowed to insist on direct sunlight, but you can insist on access to natural daylight from the sun. This means that the rights could still apply to a north-facing shaded room, but you might be disappointed to hear how far the law will support you when it comes to your conservatory. It is also important to realise that the rights only concern light, which means you can’t insist on keeping your beautiful view.

Does my land have the Right to Light?

There are six ways in which land can gain the Right to Light:

  1. By means of an express grant or reservation provided in a deed.
  2. Through statutory rights (i.e. those provided by legislation).
  3. Via an implied grant (i.e. in the sale of part of some land).

These three rights are provided immediately, whereas the following are rights that arise over time.

  1. Common law prescription. This infers a right to light if the light has been enjoyed, as of right, since “time immemorial”, which according to legal fiction is 1189! In practice this one is very rare.
  2. The doctrine of lost modern grant. This presumes that any light which has been enjoyed as of right for a minimum of twenty years must have been granted at some point in history, but the documentation has since been lost. Again, this is rarely established in practice.
  3. The Prescription Act 1832. This is the most common way of acquiring the right to light. The Act grants the right to light which has been enjoyed for an uninterrupted twenty-year period.

What should I do if I think my ‘Right to Light’ is being infringed?

We think that falling out with a neighbour is something to be avoided if at all possible – so the first step should be looking to see if an amicable, reasonable solution could be reached. Think about whether you could negotiate with the developer and reach an agreement whereby the development can continue with slight changes to address your concerns, or whether you would be willing for it to continue in exchange for you receiving compensation.

If an amicable solution isn’t possible you may apply for an injunction, which may result in the development being halted or revised to avoid blocking your light. As an alternative to an injunction the court may choose to award damages.

Are you concerned that your ‘Right to Light’ is being infringed? Get in touch with our Disputes department  to learn more about how we can help.

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