If you’re planning an extension on your property you may forget to consider a key issue that can significantly change or even halt your building plans. The key issue is how your extension could affect your neighbour’s right to light.
If you don’t take right to light into account during the planning stage you could face costs to change or even remove the extension.
Brady Solicitors’ Sumi Begum consider the essentials you need to know about right to light when planning an extension on your property.
Does your neighbour have a right to light?
Rights to light issues can create unnecessary stresses and also impact on any development schemes. Ideally you should establish if your neighbours have a right to light in the planning stage of the extension.
Right to light is protected under common law, adverse possession and in England and Wales by the Prescription Act 1832. A right to light may be acquired by ‘anyone who has had uninterrupted use of something over someone else’s land for 20 years without consent, openly and without threat, and without interruption for more than a year.’ Home extensions or a new building erected close to a neighbouring property are common examples of a right to light dispute.
If your new extension will limit the light coming into your neighbour’s windows and the level of light inside the room(s) falls below the accepted level then this constitutes an obstruction and your neighbour is entitled to take legal action.
There are two requirements for your neighbour to satisfy in bringing a right to light claim:
Do they have a right to light? It is always best to obtain a right to light expert’s report in order to establish a right.
Will this right be affected by the extension/works planned?
Even if your neighbour has satisfied these two conditions this does not automatically mean Court action and the end of your plans. Mediation is a means for both parties to communicate and find a mutually agreeable solution to the problem.
It is also worth noting that even if you already have planning permission for the extension this does not necessarily mean that your neighbour does not have a right to light.
If your neighbour has established a right to light, what are the next steps?
Your neighbour will have a right to oppose the build. You will need to submit evidence to the satisfaction of the Court that your extension will not impact on your neighbour’s right to light.
What if building is already underway?
In more developed circumstances where the extension is being built, or has been built, the Court can either award compensation to the neighbour, order for the offending part of the development to be cut back or a combination of both. In rare instances, the Court may issue an injunction to prevent the development works altogether.
Where the damages awarded are found to be a sufficient remedy, the Court is unlikely to grant an injunction to prevent the works.
We would recommend that anyone who has any concern that their development or extension is at risk of violating their neighbours’ right to light to contact expert solicitors, who can advise if the neighbours may have a claim and the best course of action moving forward.