As part of the series of Brady Solicitors ‘expert view’ pieces, we take a look at the ‘right to light’ and the disputes that can arise.
The right to light is a centuries-old law that grants householders the right to enjoy the light that comes into their homes and is commonly acquired after 20 years of uninterrupted access to the light. The right to light can also be detailed in a property’s title deeds.
The most common cause of right to light disputes are new buildings and extensions that affect the light enjoyed by residents of an existing property. Issues can also arise from other ‘light obstructions’ such as trees or tall hedges that obscure the natural light that has been enjoyed through a window for more than 20 years.
How is the right to light assessed?
An expert chartered surveyor can be instructed to assess the actual or projected loss of light (depending on whether the obstruction has already been erected). In the event of a right to light dispute, the courts will be interested in how much light is left, rather than how much is lost, and whether or not this is sufficient for the comfortable enjoyment of the property.
No wrong is committed if the amount of light remaining is sufficient for ordinary use, and this depends on what the building is being used for.
What happens if I receive a right to light letter?
You should seek legal advice to weigh up your options and agree a sensible approach to resolving the matter.
What happens if a right to light does exist?
If, following a review of the title deeds, examining the factual history of the property, and obtaining a chartered surveyor’s expert comment, it is found that a right to light does exist, the courts may order the removal of the obstruction if built (even if constructed with planning permission), or prevent the obstruction if not built. This usually only happens in cases of severe loss of light. Alternatively, and often more likely, a person may receive financial compensation instead.
Do you need help with a right to light issue?
**Proposals are being made to reform the right to light legalisation. Read our assessment of the proposed changes.**