A right to light grants the proprietor of a building containing windows that receive natural daylight the entitlement to maintain an adequate level of illumination, ensuring the sufficient enjoyment of the room or rooms illuminated by that light. This easement protects landowners and cannot disrupt the neighbours right to light without prior consent.
A right of light isn’t acquired automatically by property owners, but there are various methods by which it can be acquired. The most common way a property acquires right of light is through prescription following 20 years or more of enjoyment, pursuant to the Prescription Act 1832 or the common law doctrine of Lost Modern Grant.
When building a development consideration should be taken to not infringe upon someone’s right to light as this could result in legal action and when successful can lead to awarding a sum of money for compensating the loss or requiring demolishing some or all of the development unless structural change can remedy the problem. This can create both added costs as well as delays to development projects.
Insurance markets are seeing a large volume of claims, this is largely down to ‘no win, no fee’ firms contacting properties surrounding development sites or site which have recently acquired planning permission. This has led to an increased number of potential claimants approaching developers regarding compensation, damages or other potential remedies. Generally it is raising awareness of rights to light and the potential problems it can cause.
Right of light insurance policies are increasing becoming a requirement for lenders as well as requirements for incoming purchasers. In addition to the other benefits of a right of light policy it can save time in the latter part of the transaction process as potential lender and purchasers have comfort that cover in in place for this risk.
Protecting your development
Protecting your development from potential encroachments on the right of light easement is essential to safeguard the value and functionality of your property. Given the risks, some key considerations should be explored:
- Due diligence: before embarking on any construction or renovation project, a surveyor should be consulted to provide a right of light report. This will help you understand potential risks and assess the impact of your development on neighbouring properties.
- Design and planning: Work with architects who are well-versed in rights of light issues. Correct planning and design of your project can help minimise risk of obstructing neighbouring properties’ access to light which in turn will prevent added costs as well as delays to your development project.
- Negotiation and communication: Open communication with neighbouring properties owners is crucial. Engage in constructive discussions to address concerns, and if possible, reach mutually beneficial agreements that protect both parties’ interests.
- Documentation: Keep thorough records of all communication, surveys and agreements related to the right of life. Incorrect documentation may impact you negatively in case of dispute.
- Insurance: Consider investing in right of light insurance, taking out cover is common, especially in built up areas. Right of light can be secured prior to the planning stage providing financial safeguarding.
By understanding the implications of right of light and ensuring adequate insurance cover, you can reduce the risk of potential disputes, preserve the well-being of neighbouring properties and shield yourself from unforeseen financial liabilities.
For more information regarding right of light insurance and how Gallagher can help please reach out to a Gallagher representative.