Blocking Out Light

April 2018 was Home Improvement Month. I’m not sure we need much encouragement; with rising house prices, many of us are doing just that! Some very brave souls will even build their own home! 

Recent research into the number of planning permission applications reveals that homeowners intend to tackle home improvements worth nearly £51 billion over the next 6 months.  A large proportion of the applications are right here in the South East. 

But planning permission from the local authority is not the only hurdle to overcome: What if your dream build will reduce the amount of light enjoyed by your neighbour’s home? (Legal rights of light are not a planning consideration for the local authority; but rather a private matter between the parties). At worst, if your neighbour enjoys legal rights of light over your land which are affected by your development, they could take court action against you to prevent your works going ahead. 

Despite the drastic sounding threat of an “injunction”, in reality, a large number of right of light claims do not make it to court. Often, a neighbour whose light is affected will agree to “release” to you the legal rights of light enjoyed by his property in return for you paying them compensation. Sometimes, the compensation is substantial.

Case Study 1:

Mr & Mrs G had planning permission to build an extra floor to their existing property. However, the proposed build was calculated by specialist right of light surveyors as likely to cause an injury to their neighbour’s land. The neighbour enjoyed legal rights of light over our client’s land, and threatened to issue proceedings for an injunction against our client to prevent the building works.  

Using established case law and drawing on our specialist right of light experience, we avoided injunctive proceedings, and settled the claim against our clients. This saved them time and money and allowed them to build their extension.   

Case Study 2: 

Mr L, the owner of a leasehold flat, had lived there for 25 years. His building enjoyed legal rights of light over nearby land. A large scale residential property development nearby caused a significant injury to the light received through his windows, and therefore the developer was liable to pay Mr L compensation for that injury. BTMK acted on Mr L’s behalf to conclude an agreement where Mr L released a defined right of light over the developer’s land in return for a substantial five-figure settlement. 


However, if you are or will be affected by a neighbour’s development – don’t get too excited about a possible compensation payment just yet! Not all buildings enjoy legal rights of light over other land. That building will have no right to compensation if a nearby development reduces or injures the light it receives. 

That is why, at BTMK, the first thing we do is carry out a review of the Land Registry registers of title, and other relevant documents relating to the properties in question, to establish whether or not legal rights exist which benefit your property and/or benefit your neighbour’s land. Often this can save you time & money, as right of light surveyors will generally only be required to value the light “injury” if legal rights of light exist. 

We are here to advise you on all aspects of right of light, and are experienced in neighbourly matters. Whether you’re developing your property, or you’re affected by a neighbour’s building works, we have a dedicated team of specialist right of light lawyers on hand to answer your questions!

Call me today for a free initial chat on 01702 238553!

About the Author

Rachel is a Chartered Legal Executive in the Commercial Property Department, specialising in commercial property and business transactions, and Rights of Light (for both developers and individuals).

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