A Property Developer’s Guide To “Right to Light” Legislation

Natural light is a precious commodity, and it’s one that’s at risk of be taken away from neighbouring residents by poor planning or lack of consideration. Because many property owners are unaware of their neighbours’ right to light, or are unaware of how their building projects actually affect their neighbours, property developers have the responsibility to ensure that everyone’s right to light is upheld.

“Right to Light” legislation ensures that those whose right to light is obstructed by neighbouring building projects are either compensated or able to negotiate changes to such property development. Here’s what you need to know, as a property developer, about “Right to Light” legislation.

Right To Light

What Is “Right to Light”?

Common law, adverse possession and the Prescription Act of 1832 in England in Wales protect every person’s right to unobstructed access to natural light in their home or commercial residence. This easement gives every property owner the right to receive natural lighting through various defined openings in his or her building on his or her land.

According to the Law Commission, the right to light protects a person’s right to maintain access to the light that passes over a neighbour’s land and into his or her building. The amount of light protected by this right differs depending on the type of property and the room, but should be sufficient natural light to allow the space to be used for its ordinary purpose.

A person’s right to light is violated when a nearby construction project blocks enough light coming into the occupant’s space, preventing the occupant from exercising their right to light – from residing in a space at least half lit with natural lighting. Common obstructions that can violate a neighbouring party’s right to light include outdoor sheds, garden walls, building extensions, home renovations and commercial developments.

How To Avoid “Right to Light” Violations

Being aware of neighbouring parties’ right to light is the first step toward preventing violations. In the planning stage of property development, consider the effect such plans will have on neighbouring residents. Know where neighbouring windows are located to get an idea of where natural light is already entering their home or commercial space. Find a bird’s eye view of the property you’re working on as well as neighbouring buildings, or talk to neighbours to get an idea of where their windows are.

Next, while planning your development project, keep in mind those points of access where natural light enters neighbouring properties. Pay attention to new heights and protruding elements when going over architectural designs and construction plans. While you may not need building regulations approval for the renovation or remodel you’re working on, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your development plans won’t impede on another property owner’s right to light.

Once you have an idea of the extended impact of your property development, consider the effect your project will have on neighbours’ rights to light. If you’re unsure whether or not a structure will impede on another’s right to light – or to what extent a structure will obstruct a neighbour’s natural lighting – you can consult a right to light specialist, a qualified professional whose job it is to know the ins and outs of “Right to Light” legislation, light surveys, neighbour disputes and resolutions.

Why Forward-Thinking Property Development Is Smart Property Development

Assessing your development plans before moving forward can prevent larger hassle during your construction projects. Concerned neighbours can obtain court orders for you to put a hold on building, costing you money, time and resources in the meanwhile. You may have to alter your development scheme significantly to appease the disputing party, which may negatively affect other parts of your development plans.

If neighbours wait until after a building project is finished to submit a dispute to the courts, property developers then face the potential consequence of paying significant damages for the obstruction of their rights. As a property developer, your reputation can be tarnished by development delays and unwanted alterations.

Understanding “Right to Light” legislation enough to know when it’s time to call in a specialist will help prevent unwanted disputes from coming your way. With a bit of forward-thinking and consideration of the resources available to you, you can make smarter choices in property development.