construction risks and rights to light legislation

Rights to light - make sure you're not in the dark

Rights to light can save a property from suffering in the shadows of surrounding buildings, helping to retain its value and appearance.

If you’ve got an upcoming project or looking to purchase a building, and are concerned about a potential right of light issue. Here’s everything you should know about rights of light.

What is right to light? 

In England and Wales, a ‘right to light’ is an easement that gives landowners the right to receive light through defined apertures , such as windows, in buildings on their land. Landowners cannot disrupt their neighbours’ rights to light. For example, they can’t erect a building in a way that blocks the light, without their neighbours’ prior consent.

Where does right to light apply?

Right to light applies to all properties that have received natural daylight for more than 20 years. It guarantees landowners their qualifying buildings will continue to receive natural light. If not they will be awarded compensation for their buildings’ loss of light.

What’s the law on right to light?

Rights of Light Act 1959

The Rights of Light Act 1959 (ROLA 1959) provides a way of interrupting a right to light without needing a physical obstruction. A ‘light obstruction notice’ creates a notional obstruction which is registered as a local land charge. Those affected have one year to object, which can be done by showing an existing rights of light which the notional obstructions infringes. 

Proposed changes to right to light law

The Law Commission published a consultation paper in February 2013.  The consultation discussed the suitability of compensation available to claimants and the effects of rights to light on the construction industry.

The Commission aimed to strike a balance between the competing interests of developers and beneficiaries of rights to light. It proposed changes including:

  • A set notice period for right to light claims to be made
  • A statutory test to help the courts to decide the outcome of a claim.

These changes would help to make the process of a claim easier and faster. Meaning a much better result for developers. The Law Commission are awaiting a response from Government to their recommendations.

Right to light implications and risks

Failing to consider neighbouring buildings’ ‘rights to light’ could have major implications to your company and project. If a proposed, partially built or completed property violates neighbours’ rights to light, this could result in:

  • Large compensation claims and settlements
  • A halt to construction, or in extreme cases an injunction or court order would prevent the development altogether
  • Project demolition
  • Reputational damage
  • Wasted time and money
  • Expensive legal fees.

To avoid the risk of an injunction or damages claim, any potential rights of light issues should be identified at an early stage in the development process. You may want to consider commissioning a right of light report form a surveyor.

Rights of light insurance

Insurance plays a crucial role in managing various construction-related risks, including rights to light.

Rights of light insurance protects developers against financial losses that may arise in actual or threatened legal action concerning breach of a right to light. Most policies provide cover against:

  • Potential damages claims and costs
  • Abortive and additional costs of works
  • Diminution in value.

Construction project insurance

Construction project insurance requirements vary depending on the project’s size, complexity and jurisdiction, but several key policies are commonly required.

  1. Public liability insurance: provides coverage for third-party property damage or personal injury claims arising from the construction activities. 
  2. Professional indemnity insurance: protects against claims arising from errors, omissions, or professional negligence, including those related to rights to light.
  3. Contractors All Risks insurance: covers physical damage to the construction site, materials, and equipment, including theft or damage caused by fire, natural disasters, or accidents. It can also include provisions for loss of light claims.
  4. Legal indemnity insurance: provides financial protection against legal costs, compensation claims, or any other losses resulting from an infringement on rights to light.

Here at Marsh Commercial, we highly recommend owners and developers explore owner controlled insurance (OCIP) – to arrange an insurance cover that’s most appropriate to each individual project.

Concerned about rights to light or want to discuss your project?

By understanding the implications of rights to light and ensuring adequate insurance coverage, you can mitigate potential disputes, safeguard neighbouring properties, and protect yourself from unexpected financial liabilities throughout the construction process.

Get in touch with a construction project insurance expert today if you’d like to discuss your project.


*The information contained herein is based on sources we believe reliable and should be understood to be general risk management and insurance information only. The information is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such. This article contains third party content and/or links to third party websites. Links to third party websites are provided as a convenience only. Marsh Commercial is not responsible or liable for any third party content or any third party website nor does it imply a recommendation or endorsement of such content, websites or services offered by third parties.

Marsh Commercial is a trading name of Marsh Ltd. Marsh Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for General Insurance Distribution and Credit Broking (Firm Reference No. 307511). Copyright © 2023 Marsh Ltd. Registered in England and Wales Number: 1507274, Registered office: 1 Tower Place West, Tower Place, London EC3R 5BU. All rights reserved.

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