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Let there be light

15th January 2015

The Law Commission has been considering the impact of the current rights to light law since March 2012. Matt Rhodes looks at their recent findings...

The current ‘Right to Light’ laws protect land owners from being plunged into darkness when adjacent property is developed.

The issue for property owners and developers (apart from this being seen as one of the last property and real estate dark arts) is the uncertainty for developers. The current law allows adjoining owners to raise a challenge to a development at almost any time before, during, or even after, construction. This can actually result in parts of newly erected buildings being pulled down.

In fact, it is quite common for developers to change the shape of their building to bring them within an envelope of development that reduces the potential impact on adjoining owners. This also reduces the potential risk of non communicative adjoining owners affecting the planning, building and sale of new buildings.

The Law Commission proposes some alterations which, simply put, will add a time line to which an adjoining owner can raise a challenge, after which the right to challenge will “drop away”. This is similar to the Party Wall Act which losses its teeth once the works are completed.

The proposed alterations will greatly help developers as they can mitigate the risk of challenges from their appraisals so all costs can be budgeted to a programme. If the owner’s surveyors receive no response to their approaches, which is quite common, then after a prescribed time frame the adjoining owner cannot lodge a claim which could have resulted in hundreds of thousands of pounds in losses to the appraisal. This will remove issues from the sale of newly developed property for the same reasons.

Neighbourly matters will always feature high on a developer’s mind as crane over sailing and party wall issues are pretty standard in today’s world of knock down and rebuilding of bigger and bigger buildings.

So a bit of risk mitigation and some increase in financial planning prior to construction will surely be greatly received across the developers market....

Matt Rhodes is a director at Capita

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