Colliers’ Neighbourly Matters team answer some frequently asked questions about rights of light and party wall matters.
1. What is a right to light?
A right to light is essentially a right to have access to adequate daylight from the sky, when proposed building works are going to increase the size of a building, it should be considered whether this will reduce the existing levels of light being received by surrounding properties. What is deemed to be ‘adequate’ is often debated by rights of light surveyors, but the widely accepted approach is that half of the room should remain sufficiently well-lit.
There are several ways someone can acquire a legal right to light to their building, these are through implied grant; express grant; lost modern grant time, immemorial and the Prescription Act 1832. Most commonly known, Section 3 of the Prescription Act deals with rights of light specifically and states that an aperture can acquire a right to light following 20 years or more enjoyment without interruption. It is important to note that the right can also be transferred from a demolished building to a new building.
2. What is the difference between a right to light and daylight and sunlight assessments?
A right to light is protected through legal action, where a resolution may be for the building to be reduced in size or compensation awarded.
However daylight and sunlight assessments relate to the planning process. Planning authorities will often request that developers submit a daylight and sunlight report as part of a planning application, including an analysis of any impacts to surrounding residential properties (authorities can also ask a developer to consider the impact on community buildings such as schools, hospitals and churches as well). It may also look at the amount of daylight received within the proposed development itself.
3. How do I deal with a right of light issue?
If you are a developer, right of light issues should be dealt with early in the development process. If this is ignored it can result in substantial costs and worst case scenario could be result in a building being ‘cut back’ or reduced in size to mitigate impact.
Neighbours can also challenge a developer on these rights by commissioning experienced surveyors to undertake a full technical review of the proposals to understand whether there will be a substantial impact and negotiate a suitable settlement on their behalf.
4. What is a party wall?
A party wall is dividing wall standing on the land of two owners., The Party Wall Act 1996can also be applied to a fence, floor or ceiling which separates parts of a building accessed via separate entrances and in separate ownership.
The act provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to these boundaries as well as excavations near existing neighbouring buildings.
Under the act an “owner” is anyone with an interest in the property of more than one year. Therefore, a freeholder, a leasehold owner and on occasion a sub lessee can all be an “owner”. Under the act the person carrying out the works is known as the “Building Owner”, whereas those impacted by the works are known as the “Adjoining Owners”.
5. What are the procedures if the Party Wall Act 1996 is invoked?
Firstly, it needs to be determined how the proposed works might affect the Adjoining Owner(s). Once determined, the correct notices must be served. Notices for anything affecting a party wall or structure must be served at least two months before works begin, or in the case of works for the creation of a party fence wall or excavations, one month.
The Adjoining Owner will have 14 days to reply. They can consent or oppose the works. Failure to respond within 14 days is deemed as opposition then it is necessary to enter a Party Wall Award.
The award will be drawn up by the appointed surveyors. If there are many Adjoining Owners, the Building Owner’s Surveyor may find himself dealing with a number of different surveyors.
Colliers’ Neighbourly Matters team is able to advise both developers and neighbours in affected properties on rights to light and party wall agreements. Our experienced surveyor team has worked with institutional developers to mitigate their risks. We have also advised private individuals concerned by nearby over development impacting on their homes, successfully negotiating changes to developments or compensation as directed by the client.