Balancing the conflicting interests in right to light
The Law Commission wants to reform the law relating to the right to light, in an effort to balance the legitimate yet often conflicting interests of both developers and property owners
The Commission is concerned that under the current system, there is no time limit for bringing claims that a right to light has been infringed. It means that disputes can emerge while construction is under way and even continue after the project has been completed.
Developers can be ordered to stop building even though the project is well under way. They may have to pay compensation to the owners of affected properties and in extreme cases, they may be ordered to demolish a new building.
The Commission wants to update the law to prevent costly disputes by trying to resolve issues before developments get underway and large amounts of money have been invested.
It wants a statutory notice procedure which would allow landowners and developers to require householders to tell them if they intended to seek an injunction to protect their right to light. They would need to object within a specified time or lose the right to do so.
Professor Elizabeth Cooke, the Law Commissioner leading the project, said: "Rights to light are important, particularly for homeowners. The law must continue to protect them. But it is essential that the law provides an appropriate balance between the protection of light and the development of the modern, high-quality residential, office and commercial premises we need in our town and city centres.
"Our reforms will clarify the legal relationships between the parties, bring transparency and certainty, and reduce the scope for disputes. Where disputes do happen, it will be easier and quicker for landowners, developers and the courts to resolve them.”
The Commission’s proposals are now being considered by the government. We shall keep clients informed of developments.
Please contact Neil O'Callaghan if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article.