Opening a Window on to Light Obstruction Notices

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Opening a Window on to Light Obstruction Notices

1. What is a Light Obstruction Notice?

A Light Obstruction Notice is a notional interference (as opposed to a physical obstruction) with light to stop a 20 year prescriptive right being obtained by one building over another. If the obstruction is in place for one year (i.e. the notice remains unchallenged) the accrual of a right of light will have been interrupted.

Light Obstruction Notices are often (tactically) used by developers to flush out prescriptive rights of light claims in relation to their new schemes, prior to a start on site. However, they can also have unintended consequences for developers as they may alert parties to their potential rights.

2. Notice of intention

A notice of intention is a notice of the sender's intention to register a Light Obstruction Notice. The giving of such notice is a pre-requisite to the Lands Tribunal issuing a Light Obstruction Notice.

3. Is the recipient obligated to acknowledge receipt of a notice of intention?

No and there may be nothing gained by doing so.

The obligation will be on the applicant to provide evidence of service of the notice of intention on those with an interest in the adjoining buildings to the Lands Tribunal prior to the Lands Tribunal being able to issue the Light Obstruction Notice (which, obviously, an acknowledgement would provide) and in the absence of an express acknowledgement within 6 weeks of service, the Lands Tribunal will accept evidence of receipt of recorded delivery service or other such proof of postage.

4. Challenging a Light Obstruction Notice

Once the certificate is issue by the Lands Tribunal and thereafter registered on the Local Land Charges Register, challenges must be brought within 12 months of registration by issuing court proceedings. Failure to object defeats any prescriptive rights of light acquired.

The notional obstruction is an actionable interference with the dominant building and the owner has a right of action. The claim will be for declaratory relief and an order cancelling the notice. As there is no actual interference, there is no damages order.

Alternatively, the applicant who has registered the notice could be contacted, with proof that rights of light have already been acquired, for example, if the applicant agrees, then the applicant has the power to alter or cancel the obstruction notice.

Developers should be aware that time starts running on a new prescriptive right of light at the expiration of the 12 month interruption.

5. Some key points to consider for developers

Will access of light to a building be impacted by your development?

How long has the building on the property (with potential rights) been constructed?

Depending on the answer to the above (i.e. if less than 19 years and 1 day), are the windows of the building in approximately the same location as a previous building on the site?

Are there any deeds expressly dealing with rights of light?

6. Rights of Light generally

The ways in which a right of light can be acquired are predominantly the same as for other easements (save for in relation to prescription). For the avoidance of doubt, Light Obstruction Notices only affect prescriptive rights of light.

How we work

Whether you are a developer concerned with rights of light or are impacted by a neighbouring development, we are here to help. Our full service real estate commercial team work closely with other teams within the firm to offer a full suite of legal expertise to deliver innovative and effective solutions to satisfy your requirements, and we also work with and can recommend specialist rights of light surveyors across the UK. To contact myself or the team please do not hesitate to send an enquiry form or email us.

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