Ignoring rights to light can cost developers dearly

Ignoring a neighbouring property’s rights to light can be very expensive for commercial property developers, from paying compensation, to losing planning permission, and even having to take down parts of a new building, according to KWB’s Akim Kamangira, a leading Midlands rights to light specialist.

Akim Kamangira, Head of Building Consultancy at KWB’s Birmingham commercial property agents, says that there are so many issues to deal with on new developments that developers can easily overlook the impact that their planned new building will have on the light enjoyed by nearby properties.

Akim, who undertakes rights to light surveys for both planned and existing buildings to assess liabilities, explained: “Neighbouring buildings can have a claim if they have been standing for more than 20 years and have acquired a right to light. Even if the light in only one room is impacted, there is a case for compensation or removal of the new building. It’s all set out in the 1832 Rights to Light Act.

“If a neighbour brings a case and wins, which is almost certain following an appropriate survey from a Rights to Light surveyor, then for a commercial building the court will most often award monetary compensation. However, it can also result in an order to remove the offending part of the new building, or if it has not yet been built, the overturning of planning permission.

Developers planning for rights to light

“I was recently asked to undertake a retrospective rights to light survey on a building by new investors and my assessment was that it faced a potential liability of more than £100,000, if the neighbours chose to complain about their loss of light, which they could do at any time, as there is no time limit on claims.

“However, in a case in Leeds, a developer was ordered by the courts to remove part of two floors of an office block, at an estimated cost of between £1m and £2.5m because they infringed a neighbour’s light, while in London a successful case undertaken by a pub saw planning permission overturned by the court for a new neighbouring three-storey building with commercial uses on the ground floor and six flats above.”

KWB would like to encourage any commercial property developers with planned projects which have known or potential infringements of Rights to Light to get in touch, as its service may be able to provide a cost-effective solution and mitigate expensive penalties.

For further information about rights to light surveys and potential liabilities, contact Akim Kamangira on 0121 233 2330 or email akamangira@kwboffice.com.