At Smith Marston, we are specialist surveyors offering expert right-to-light assessments to both commercial and residential properties. Find out how we can help you today, and learn more about right-to-light assessments, what they are and who needs them.
Buildings can obtain a legal right to light, allowing an owner to take legal action against a development that would cause a specific light loss through existing windows of affected rooms.
Understanding Right to Light UK
A right to light is a legal right to a particular amount of light in a room or space. Using the 50:50 rule, a right to light injury is defined as loss of light when the light within a room is reduced to less than 50% of the original amount. Not everyone has a legal right to light, so it’s best to check.
Your right to light is typically threatened by nearby expansion or construction of buildings that may block the light from your property. This is known as a right to light injury, which is defined as loss of light when the light within a room is reduced to less than 50% of the original amount.
It’s important to know that the 45-degree and 25-degree rules have nothing to do with legal rights to light. Sometimes, people suggest that drawing a 45-degree line from a neighbour’s window can show if they might have a legal right to light. But this idea is completely wrong and not enough to determine if a neighbour’s room is affected by a right to light issue. Our comprehensive guide lets you learn more about the 45-degree and 25-degree rules of thumb.
How can you acquire a right to light?
Most commonly, a legal right to light will be acquired by anyone who has enjoyed uninterrupted light through an opening (without specific consent, openly, without threat, and without interruption) for over 20 years. However, there are alternative means of obtaining a legal right of light, such as by express grant or implied grant; these alternatives can mean that a new building can immediately have rights of light without having enjoyed light through openings for 20 years.
Rights of light for new builds
There are alternative means of obtaining a legal right of light, such as by express grant or implied grant; these alternatives can mean that a new building can immediately have rights of light without having enjoyed light through openings for 20 years.
Right to light vs daylight & sunlight
Right to light is very different to daylight or sunlight assessments, as right to light includes any room or space including bathrooms, garages and stairwells. Whereas daylight or sunlight assessments only focus on the light attained in habitable rooms.
How can right to light injuries or infringements occur?
It can often be the case that relatively minor house extensions can be the cause of a right to light dispute. For example, a homeowner may proceed with the construction of a fairly modest side extension, only to find out part-way through that the development would cause a legal injury to their neighbour’s house.
Right to Light is a specialist area about which many Surveyors, Architects and Planning Officers are relatively unaware and, as a consequence, a scheme can pass through the design, drawing and tendering phases without anybody even considering legal rights of light, we are regularly involved with projects where exactly this has happened. It should be noted that, just because a scheme has planning permission does not mean that there might not be legal right to light issues.
In the Event of a Right To Light Injury
The possible remedies for a successful action, in respect of a legal right to light claim, can be an injunction and/or compensation. If it can be demonstrated that there has been a legal injury to a room‘s light, at a minimum, compensation would be payable to the neighbour who has lost light to their home. There are some notable cases where a Judge has ordered for the partial demolition of a completed development as a result of a successful right of light action. This means it is worth seeking advice before the build starts, if you are the developer or builder of an extension or new build property.
When to Consider a Right to Light Assessment
Right to Light is a specialist area about which many Surveyors, Architects and Planning Officers are relatively unaware. Consequently, a scheme can pass through the design, drawing and tendering phases without considering the legal rights of light. Many of our clients have made it to this stage of their build before seeking advice from our team.
Similarly, right to light injury risks may be presented by unaware construction companies, which could be made through the likes of value engineering.
What is a Right to Light Assessment?
A Right to Light Assessment is a comprehensive evaluation conducted by specialists, such as our dedicated team at Smith Marston, with the aim of determining the potential impact of a nearby construction project on a property’s access to natural light. This assessment plays a pivotal role in upholding property owners’ rights to enjoy adequate daylight in their homes or workplaces.
Key Components of a Right to Light Assessment:
- Property Inspection: Our experts meticulously inspect the property in question to assess its current access to natural light. This involves a detailed examination of windows, openings, and the overall layout of the property.
- Photometric Studies: To accurately gauge the level of natural light, photometric studies are conducted. These studies provide precise measurements of daylight at various times of the day and throughout the year, considering seasonal variations.
- Daylight Calculations: We perform daylight calculations using advanced software and industry-standard methodologies. These calculations help quantify the extent to which a proposed development may diminish the property’s access to natural light.
- Compliance with Right to Light Rules: Our assessment adheres to the strict Right to Light rules and regulations established under UK law. This ensures that property owners’ rights are upheld, and any potential infringements are properly addressed.
Who Initiates a Right to Light Assessment?
A Right to Light Assessment can be initiated by either the homeowner concerned about an impending infringement on their right to light or the developers planning a nearby construction project. It serves as a crucial step in ensuring that the legal rights of both parties are respected and upheld.
Right to Light Compensation: What You Might Expect
When it comes to right to light compensation, it’s important to understand what this compensation might entail and how it can help mitigate the impact of a development on your property’s access to natural light. At Right to Light Surveyors, we are committed to ensuring our clients receive fair and comprehensive compensation. Here’s a closer look at what you might expect to receive:
Right to light compensation typically involves a financial settlement that aims to compensate you for the loss of natural light caused by the development. The amount of compensation can vary widely depending on factors such as the extent of the obstruction, the value of your property, and the duration of the light loss.
In some cases, loss of light compensation may include property enhancements or modifications to mitigate the impact of reduced natural light. This could involve architectural changes, such as adding light wells or skylights, to restore adequate daylight to your property.
In many instances, the responsible party (usually the developer) may also be required to cover your legal costs associated with pursuing loss of light compensation. This ensures that you are not financially burdened by the legal process.
Ongoing Access to Light:
Depending on the specifics of your case, compensation might also include provisions to ensure ongoing access to natural light. For example, the developer may be required to modify their project plans to minimise the impact on your property’s light, even after construction is complete.
What is the Law on Right to Light in the UK?
In the United Kingdom, right to light law is a legal concept that protects property owners’ access to natural light. Understanding the legal framework surrounding right to light legislation is crucial when considering compensation claims and preserving this vital aspect of your property. Here, we provide an overview of the key aspects of the law on right to light in the UK.
Key Legal Principles:
- Preservation of Access to Light: The law recognises the importance of natural light in properties and aims to safeguard it. Property owners have the right to receive an adequate level of natural light, and this right is protected by legal principles.
- Ancient Lights: The concept of “Ancient Lights” refers to the legal recognition of long-standing windows or openings that have enjoyed uninterrupted access to light for a specified period. In the UK, this period is generally 20 years. Property owners with Ancient Lights have a strong legal basis for protecting their right to light.
- Obstruction and Compensation: If a new development or construction project threatens to obstruct a property’s access to natural light, the affected property owner may be entitled to compensation. The law aims to strike a balance between the rights of the property owner seeking compensation and the rights of the developer.
- Statutory Rights: In addition to Ancient Lights, there are statutory rights that protect access to light. These rights are governed by specific statutes and regulations, such as the Rights of Light Act 1959 and the Prescription Act 1832. These laws provide legal mechanisms for asserting and protecting your Right to Light.
Case Law and Right to Light Legislation:
The interpretation and application of right to light laws in the UK have been shaped by various legal cases and precedents over the years. Courts consider factors such as the extent of light loss, the impact on the affected property, and the reasonableness of the development in question when determining compensation and remedies.
How We Can Help:
At Smith Marston, we have an in-depth understanding of the UK’s right to light legislation and how they are applied in practice. Our experienced team specialises in conducting assessments, preparing expert reports, and negotiating on behalf of property owners to secure fair compensation in accordance with UK law.
If you would like to speak to our team about a neighbours extension, or if you’re a developer looking to ensure you don’t cause a right to light injury for your team, contact us.
You can find more information about your rights to light on our FAQs page.