What are rights to light and what do property owners need to know?

Tiziana Paris
Tiziana Paris, Attorney at Law

Developers, or house owners carrying out extensions, should be wary of breaching neighbours' rights of light, or risk facing legal action.

What are rights of light?

Rights of light give protection to light coming through an aperture, like a window, to a room. If the light to that room is diminished by a new development nearby to such an extent that it is a nuisance then this can lead to court action.

Until recently it had been thought that if a building owner had not taken prompt action to protect their rights of light and a neighbouring development had been completed, then a court would award damages rather than an injunction. But it is not now: in such cases the court declares that every person can protect his own right of light and is entitled to an injunction. 

But what is the best solution: if a risk is identified then discussions should take place with the neighbouring owners to reach an amicable settlement; either a compensation payment or a redesign of the new building. This should be properly and promptly documented to prevent disputes at a later date.