Right to Light

What is Right to Light in the UK?

According to UK law, the ‘Right to Light’ allows the property owner, the right to maintain a certain level of illumination through the property’s windows. In fact, if the property owner has received natural light through the windows of the building, for at least twenty years, they are able to forbid any building activities that would obstruct daylight to their property. As a result, neighbours cannot commence any building activity that blocks natural daylight, without written permission or consent.

According to www.meadeking.co.uk/insight/right-to-light/ the Prescription Act, declares that there is a right to light after 20 years, but if this period is interrupted, this right is not given. By putting up a physical impediment such as a screen, hedge, wall or the extension itself, this can be achieved but you must put up the barrier before the set period expires to stop a right to light.

The ‘Right to Light’ clause, grants the property owner to add further windows but cannot increase the size of these windows once installed, before a new period of twenty years lapses. In this case, it is also possible for a ‘Right to Light’ to be in effect, if granted by deed explicitly, or implicitly.

If a new building is constructed and it breaches the ‘Right to Light’ clause, by reducing the amount of natural daylight, coming through a window of the property, then legally, the property owner has the option of taking legal action against the constructors of the building; who have breached this clause. Having said this, the property owner, also has the right to waive such right.

Some of the ways in which one can also acquire a ‘Right to Light’ are through:

– The Prescription Act 1832.
– Legal Documentation.
– Common Law.
– An act of parliament.

To be certain, the types of property developments which may obstruct natural daylight coming into the property includes (but is not limited to), the following:

– Walls (Garden Walls, etc.)
– Extensions to a property, e.g. conservatories, annexes, etc.
– Sheds.

If the property owner’s, ‘Right to Light’, hasn’t been take into consideration by a property developer, then the existing property owner, may be entitled to some form of compensation as remedy, or they may have access to negotiate any amendments; which, would help to preserve the levels of daylight that the property would receive. This would also include the building of rear extensions, conservatories, etc. These renovation projects must not alter the current levels of daylight and even privacy, to neighbouring properties.

If building activities commence, and the issue regarding ‘Right to Light’, is significant, then the property owner, has the right to go to court and put forward a case of infringement of their ‘Right to Light’. This is irrespective of, whether planning permissions have been approved or not. As mentioned earlier, a court can award the property owner with compensation and/or, reduce the part  

of the building development that breaches the ‘Right to Light’ clause.

In extreme cases, the court can impose an injunction, which, means that all building activities must cease. However; as injunctions are quite expensive, this would be unlikely, if a smaller monetary payment can be made in the form of compensation instead. This typically holds true for quite minor matters.

How could this impact my renovation project?

A ‘Right to Light’, is quite valuable in the sense, that they provide property owners with the assurance that natural light will continue to be well received by a property. Therefore, this increases the properties: value, utility and also its amenity. This of course, would mean that there are certain guidelines to remember, when committing to the commencement and completion of a renovation project.

The ‘Right to Light’ could impact renovation projects, in many ways. Where problems, usually arise is when property owners, employ a local construction company, to commence work on completing an extension for a building, without the correct knowledge of the neighbours ‘Right to Light’, and how the development could impact this. Before any building activities are carried out, it is important for the property owner to employ a ‘Right to Light’ specialist, to carry out a formal assessment, to ensure that they are not in breach of any laws. For example, a neighbouring property has a side window that is obstructed by wall.

A common cause of ‘Right to Light’ disputes tends to focus on issues that arise from the building of an extension to a property. In cases, such as these, it is important to note the following:

– Property extensions, should not be the cause of the severe loss of: natural sunlight/daylight and privacy, to a neighbour’s property.
– An extension must not also be overwhelming, visually, when viewed from properties that are adjoined.
– The extensions’ side windows that face the “boundary line” should be omitted.
– The views across neighbouring garden areas and land must be taken into consideration.
– As, majority of homes feature their main windows towards the front and also the back, it is important to know that extensions, built closely to the “boundary line” with an adjoining property, will reduce both daylight and sunlight, of that particular property. Also it may obstruct the view from these rooms within the property.
– Extensions should be built discretely, so that it is not so large, it visually intrudes onto neighbouring properties, by causing a loss of natural light.

The website www.samconveyancing.co.uk provides the following diagram, explaining the 45 degree test that a property owner can undertake, to assess if a property extension will likely cause an obstruction of natural daylight, entering into their property via a window. At this stage, it would be wise to consider the design of all property extensions and any new buildings, to ensure that shadowing is greatly reduced onto neighbouring properties.

The 45 Degree test is best suited to residential properties and buildings, where there is a reasonable level of expected natural daylight to be received through its windows. An example of this would be an office building, or a school. Please also bear in mind that this rule, does not apply to ‘Permitted Development’ legislation.

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