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The Right to Light: An important consideration when owning or purchasing a house

by Will Gordon on August 7, 2023 No comments

As a homeowner, you have the ‘right to light’. In England and Wales a ‘right to light’ is an easement that gives a landowner the right to receive light through defined apertures, such as windows, in buildings on their land. Potentially if an owner has received natural daylight for 20 years or more they are entitled to a ‘right to light’. But what happens when this is obstructed by a neighbouring property or a new development? This blog provides you with all you need to know.

A ’right to light’ is valuable to property owners. Knowing that the continued enjoyment of natural light by a property can increase its worth, comfort and functional use. Neighbouring sheds, fences, trees, and extensions could leave property owners in the dark. Changes in working and living conditions may lead to people spending more time and money on their existing properties.

The changing landscape

Amid the pressure on local planning authorities to meet housing demands, new build opportunities may arise in previously overlooked areas. Local planning authorities will consider the impact of these new buildings on existing properties.
The planning system provides protection, not rights. Thus, when seeking planning permission, the local authority will require evidence of the impact on neighbouring properties.

Are your neighbours always going to be your neighbours? It may be that the area is being subjected to an increasing number of development proposals, the local planning authority are struggling to reach their housing targets, or does the property enjoy an enviable location or view that someone else may wish to take advantage of? These are all potential factors that would cause an area to change dramatically and quickly.

Things to consider if you have concerns

The ‘right to light’ is not absolute, however, and can be limited in certain circumstances. For example, if a neighbouring property is being used for a lawful purpose and does not significantly interfere, you may not have a valid claim. Additionally, if a new development is approved by the local authorities and complies with planning and building regulations, you may not have any legal recourse to prevent it from obstructing your light.

However, if a neighbouring property or development is blocking your light in a way that is unlawful or unreasonable, you may be able to take legal action in the form of damages or an injunction. This may involve negotiating with the property owner or taking the matter to court. In some cases, you may be able to claim compensation for the loss of your light.

If building work is already underway or completed then this can create difficulties in any potential dispute. Approaching a developer or neighbour about a potential dispute can be an intimidating process. When buying a property, you should consider the potential for future obstruction of your light. This may involve researching property history, consulting local authorities, and hiring a surveyor to assess potential impacts of new developments. Who else could help with finding out this information? DevAssist.

Are you purchasing a property with an extension or new build development in mind? By understanding the above implications of ‘rights to light’ it would be prudent to investigate proper insurance to cover yourself against any of these claims. By mitigating potential disputes and ensuring adequate insurance is in place you can protect yourself against any financial liabilities throughout the process. Whichever side of the scenario you are on it is important to be aware and keep up with these rights. 

In conclusion, the ‘right to light’ is an important consideration when owning a house. Whether you are buying a property or already a homeowner, it is important to understand your rights.

Where to find further advice

How could you avoid such potentially expensive resolutions? Is this the reason that the vendor is selling the property in the first place? Is purchasing the property without consideration of these factors the way forward? DevAssist are here to help you make an informed decision before there are any potential issues in the future. 

Our reports can reveal whether the neighbours have ever attempted to obtain planning permission that would impact your ‘right to light’. Are you in a central city location where the need for housing and limited space have forced developers to increase the height, size and scale of developments? We identify neighbouring property changes that may affect your property’s enjoyment, including extensions, new builds, conversions, and alterations.

DevAssist can help if you’re concerned about developments in your area that might impact your property or a property you plan to purchase. Get in touch here to find out more.

Will GordonThe Right to Light: An important consideration when owning or purchasing a house