Rights of Light

A long standing position in law as to rights of light may be about to change.  The Law Commission published in February of this year a right to light consultation paper setting out proposals to rights of light.  The consultation period has now expired and it will be interesting to see what the results are of the consultation.  The Law Commission made it clear that it wished to establish whether the current law and rights to light provide an appropriate balance between the interests of landowners and the need to facilitate the effective and efficient use of land through development.  The view was that the rights of light can give rise to a disproportionate negative impact on the potential for the development of land.  There were four main proposals proposed by the consultation paper being:-

(i) To abolish the acquisition of rights to light by prescription.  As most rights to light are acquired by prescription this would be a major curtailment on the acquisition of such rights in the future.  An example of a right by way of prescription would be where a building has been in existence for 20 years and it has a window or windows (which have enjoyed light for 20 years).  If the light to that window or windows is diminished such that there is insufficient light left in the room behind the windows (as judged by the Courts) then the owner of the building would have a remedy in law.  It is this right that may well be curtailed.

(ii) To introduce a new statutory test to clarify whether the Courts would be prepared to make an award of damages instead of granting an injunction to restrain the interference.

(iii) To introduce a new statutory notice procedure in which an intending developer notified the beneficiary of a right to light to the proposed development thereby setting in motion a timetable for objection by counter notice, negotiation and possible agreement and a time limit for an application for injunctive relief.

(iv) To introduce a procedure for an application to be made to the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal to extinguish rights to light that are obsolete or have no practical benefit.

All of the above changes if implemented would have a fundamental change on the way developers in future deal with rights of light.  If you believe that you have rights of light and that those rights of light are being impeded or you believe maybe impeded it is important that you take advice from a solicitor who is specialised in this area of law sooner rather than later as to delay could mean you will loose the ability to claim succesfully.