Rights of Light Simplified

A Right of Light is a right to receive the light from the sky into the room of a building through a defined opening i.e. a window. Therefore, a right to see a portion of the sky, which is enough to illuminate the room for ‘ordinary use’. It is not a right to a view! The Right of Light is usually acquired over time (at least 19 years) or granted within property deeds.

Obstructing a property owners light can lead to:

  • Court injunction – preventing construction commencing, or requiring an offending building to be demolished, or altered
  • Compensatory damages
  • Negotiated compensation settlement

Therefore, before embarking on a development project which may affect neighbouring buildings, it is important to consider the Right of Light implications.

AG understand the impact that these rights can have on a construction project. If an expert is instructed in the appraisal/feasibility or design stage, the project team can be assisted in highlighting the applicable risks and work to minimize or remove the risk where possible.

We can identify the Rights of Light risks to the developer via technical analysis and background research and advise on the appropriate course of action.

Initially we may start with a simple ‘no-sky-line’ diagram to check the likelihood of substantial loss to a room. It makes sense to start this exercise with the rooms mostly likely to be affected.

This consists of drawing a basic section (slice through) drawing showing the depth of the room from the window, the floor, ceiling, and window opening. We are interested in the light at ‘desk level’ which is commonly accepted as 850mm from the floor (though, in reality, desks are usually lower). A line is drawn from the highest point of the existing buildings, through the head of the window opening until it intersects with the desk level. This shows us how much of the room currently has a view of the sky. The outline of the proposed building is then drawn, with a second line extending from its highest point, again through the head of the opening and to desk level. We are then able to see how much of the room will have a view of the sky.

There is a general rule of thumb that 50% of the room should be ‘adequately lit’. So, if our ‘no-sky-line’ hits the desk level closer to the opening than half way through the room, we know that there is likely to be an injury, which could lead to a claim. We will then consider the need for a more detailed investigation, which will include full 3D modelling of the existing and surrounding buildings and computerised lighting analysis.

If there are Right of Light obstructions, we can provide a detailed analysis report and review the loss to the neighbouring owners.

AG can also assist in the negotiation and settlement of Rights of Light claims where the affected party and developer each appoint a Surveyor to assess the impact on the rights.

If you require advice on Rights of Light, contact an AG Neighbourly Matters expert.