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There are good reasons why houses and other residential properties have windows. Access to natural light is a necessary part of domestic life, and is closely linked to general well-being.
So what can you do if your neighbour builds something on their land, or takes any other action, which affects the light reaching your windows? Do you have legal rights to light?
As with all legal questions on residential property rights, the answer is not straightforward. The best course of action is to contact a specialist property litigation solicitor, to get advice tailored to your unique situation.
Truth Legal can help you. We have expertise in property litigation and our solicitors have experience in resolving a wide range of legal problems. Call us today to arrange a consultation and get clear advice and guidance on your position.
What rights to light are there?
Land does not have a ‘universal’ right to light. An undeveloped piece of land without any buildings on it has no rights to receive any particular level of light.
However, a building, or more specifically the windows (and skylights etc) in that building, may have certain rights to receive light. The law examines the light which individual windows receive rather than the light falling on the land or building itself.
Rights to light as easements
Rights to light can sometimes be called ‘easements’. You may be more familiar the term being used to describe rights of way.
Rights to light and rights of way are just some of the rights which may be classed as easements, and this is one of the reasons why the word is difficult to define precisely without a long, legalistic explanation. However, it is worth being aware of the term as it comes up frequently in connection with residential property law.
All easements must meet certain requirements in law. Some of these focus on technical details; however two of the main requirements may help you to understand the nature of right to light easements. They are:
- There must be a property which benefits and one which is burdened. A right to light will benefit specific windows/skylights etc by allowing light to reach them, and place a burden on another piece of land not to obstruct this light.
- The two properties must be owned by different people.
Rights to light can be created in several ways although not all of these may be reflected on the Land Registry entry, or in the title deeds, of a property. Rights to light may arise through:
- A clear express agreement – although this is very unusual in relation to rights to light.
- Implied agreement –usually arising when parts of a larger piece of land are sold. Certain easements may be implied which are necessary for the enjoyment of the sold property.
- Long use – If a window has been in place for at least 20 years, a right to light easement may arise.
Alongside right to light easements, building regulations may also play a part in preventing your neighbour from erecting certain structures. Additionally rights to light are encompassed in the laws concerning party walls.
More generally, your neighbour’s conduct might be enough to constitute a nuisance.
How much light do you have a right to?
If the light to one or more of your windows is reduced, this does not automatically give you a right to take legal action.
In general, if there is enough light left from all sources for comfortable use of your property then your rights to light have not been infringed.
However, this depends on a number of factors, such as the nature of the land. For example, a home is likely to need more light than a warehouse. A court will also consider what standards of light are like in the local area.
Whether your rights to light have been undermined can be difficult to judge. This is one of the reasons why specialist legal advice is necessary for rights to light disputes.
How can Truth Legal help?
Truth Legal has been built on the principle of providing ethical and effective legal services to all of our clients. This means being open and honest, giving clear, helpful advice, and protecting your rights.
We are based in Harrogate with presences in York, Manchester, and London.
How much will our service cost?
Truth Legal offers affordable fixed fees or hourly rates – allowing you a flexible and cost-effective service. You may also have Legal Expenses Insurance on your home insurance policy allowing some or all of your legal costs to the paid by your home insurance.
For specialist, expert advice on your rights to light, contact Truth Legal today.