Right to Light

Right to Light

You can ask our solicitors for advice on your right to light using the question box on the front of our website or the following article may answer your questions.

A question we get asked quite often What right do I have to light? Or my neighbour’s trees are blocking my right to light. Whilst you do have a right to your property receiving natural sunlight, The Rights of Light Act 1959 (ROLA 1959), neighbours can transfer the right to light to another or it can be acquired over time. An example of a property acquiring the right to light over time would be if a property had received daylight for at least 20 years, you are entitled to the continuation of this light. 

With more and more of us spending ever more time indoors is it any wonder that we are now looking to improve the quality of the time we spend behind walls and windows. We are now noticing things like the amount of light we get into our homes and perhaps why we don’t get as much as we feel we should.

right ot light

What to Do if Light is Blocked

Also you have a limited amount of action should your right to light be blocked by neighbours tree. This is not a straightforward or simple as it may sound and guidelines produced by your local council may differ slightly to another council and much will depend on where you live. Your first option, if the neighbours tree or shrub shrubs have overgrown and blocking your light, is checking if they are protected or under a preservation order or even it could be your neighbours garden is in a conservation area.

You will need to speak to your local council who will be able to confirm this for you If there is no protection order on the plants or trees and the garden is not in a conservation area you are legally entitled to either personally remove any offending overhanging branches and leaves and ask the neighbour to reduce the height of any trees or plants locking your light.

Courtesy

Before you start cutting back, it is common courtesy, to discuss with the neighbour and come to a mutually agreed way to reduce the height and any offending branches. You cannot cross the boundary between yours and your neighbours property, without his permission, as this is criminal damage. It may well be that want to do this work themselves.

Also remember anything you remove on your side of the boundary still belongs to the owner of the tree and it is wise to check with them if they want these bits you have cut off back before disposing of them. If the offending trees are causing a restriction on right to light to a window or a greenhouse again you can remove any offending items and if your neighbour becomes obstructive you can speak to your local planning department for more advice or acquiring an injunction and possibly damages.

New Developments

If your neighbour is planning to build an extension or put up a large outbuilding or conservatory any of which could infringe on your right to light to an existing building has a different set of challenges given that own ROLA only deals with the right to light through a defined apertures into buildings e.g. window.

Construction of any new buildings on an adjoining property that then blocks light to a garden or land in the eyes of the law does not infringe on that landowner’s right to light only if the new building also blocks light through a window which enjoys rights to light.

Planning Laws

Whereas with normal planning laws (where objections can be made) for loss of privacy and overlooking, rights to lights are deemed to be private property rights which is beneficial to both residential and commercial properties. A normal planning application uses the 45° rule to determine the impact of a new build on daylight and sunlight to any adjacent buildings.

Private rights of lights is often addressed separately, and usually through the courts, if an arrangement cannot be reached privately by the landowner and the owners of the new development. This is both lengthy and expensive route.

A review of ROLA 1959 and 2014 it was recommended that a time limit was placed on claims for loss of light and a clearer understanding about when damages should be awarded or a development demolished or amended in respect of unused rights to lights.

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