Where a right to light has been or is going to be infringed by development the owner of the right to light is entitled to apply for an injunction to prevent the infringement. The Court has the discretion to award damages instead of an injunction.
The stance of the Court in rights to light claims seemed to lean in favour of developers in 2014 in the case of Lawrence v Coventry where the Supreme Court suggested that a more flexible approach should be taken which would make it more likely that the Court would order damages in lieu of an injunction.
The recent case of Ottercroft Limited v Scandia Care Limited was the first widely reported Court of Appeal case on rights to light since Lawrence v Coventry but the decision was to grant an injunction notwithstanding the fact that all were in agreement that the infringement was minor and the value of the lost light amounted to only £886. The critical point in this case was the behaviour of the developer which the Court disapproved of sufficiently to grant the injunction rather than the award of damages. The specific behaviour which affected the Court's decision was:
- proceeding in an "un-neighbourly" manner in the hope that the affected owners would not object until it was too late; and
- once the affected owners had raised the issue the developer gave an undertaking which they then breached.
The key point is that if you are intending to develop your property, and rights to light will be infringed, your behaviour towards affected owners may be relevant to how a Court would consider a claim and, should the matter go to Court, could be key to whether the result is an injunction or an award of damages.