If you are constructing a new development one
factor you need to take into account is its potential impact on the
access of light (and air) to surrounding buildings. The most
frequently encountered problem will relate to prescriptive rights
to light claimed under the Prescription Act 1832. When the access
of light has been enjoyed through a defined aperture continuously
for at least 20 years, that right is deemed to be “absolute
So how does this impact on my
If the reduction of light is sufficiently great,
the affected owner (which includes freeholders and tenants) may
seek an injunction to prevent the infringement. This may stop you
building or, at the very least, require you to cut back the extent
of your development.
Injunction or damages?
If the Court decides not to grant an injunction,
you may still have to pay damages. Damages may be awarded instead
of an injunction if the injury to the rights is small can be
adequately compensated by a small money payment and it would be
oppressive to the developer to grant an injunction.
Methods of assessment are varied but they are
- a multiplier of 2.5 to 3 times the actual loss; or
- a percentage of the developer’s profits made possible by
the infringement usually between 5 to 15%, but anything up to 33%
Tips for Developers
- Be aware of your neighbour’s rights from the outset.
Obtain specialist rights of light advice from a surveyor and your
lawyer as early as possible in the project.
- Different strategies may be required for residential as opposed
to commercial occupiers.
- Consider the use of the light obstruction notice procedures.
Under Section 2 of the Rights of Light Act 1959, a light
obstruction notice may be registered as a local land charge against
neighbouring property. If no one objects within a year of the
registration, the prescriptive right will be lost. This procedure
is useful on a number of levels to:
- flush out potential objections to your development in plenty of
- eliminate possible objectors if they fail to act within the
requisite time; and
- to prevent a building nearing 20 years of age acquiring
- If an injunction remains a risk, remember that the courts look
at the conduct of both parties when considering whether to exercise
- Always ensure that a compensation offer is put on an open
basis. If the beneficiary expresses an interest, even if it does
not accept the offer this is best evidence that the infringement
can be adequately compensated by money.
If you have any questions concerning this summary
or require any further assistance in relation to rights of light
issues generally please contact Caroline DeLaney, a partner in our
Property Disputes team on telephone number 020 7367 2329 or
alternatively e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.