Airspace Ownership

Airspace Ownership: what happens when a neighbour trespasses into your airspace?


In England and Wales, property ownership extends to not only the land itself but also the airspace above it to a certain extent. Understanding the general rule that property owners own the airspace above their land is essential for maintaining peaceful coexistence amongst neighbours.

The Law:

The general rule is that property owners typically have the right to control the airspace above their land. This principle is based on longstanding legal doctrine “cuius est solum eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos”. This recognises that property rights extend to both above and below the surface. However, the extent of the airspace ownership may be limited to what is deemed to be a reasonable height above the land.

Determining what constitutes a reasonable height can depend on various factors, such as the neighbouring properties, practical considerations, local authority and planning regulations and the nature of the property.

Therefore, even though there is no precise definition of airspace ownership, property owners generally have exclusive rights to the airspace immediately above their land, allowing them to use and enjoy it without interference from others.

Trespassing into Airspace:

There may be an instance where a neighbour encroaches into your land and the airspace above your property’s boundary.

Where a neighbour encroaches without permission into your airspace, this can constitute trespass. Trespass into airspace can take various forms, such as:

  1. Overhanging structures: If a neighbour constructs a building, roof, rainwater gutter, or any other structure that extends into your airspace, it could constitute trespass, especially where the structure overhangs into your boundaries deliberately.
  2. Airborne activities: Unauthorised flying of, for example, drones over your property at low heights may also be considered trespassing, especially if it interferes with your quiet enjoyment of your land.
  3. Nuisance: Even if a structure does not intentionally intrude into your airspace, such as where your neighbours fail to stop their tree branches from encroaching into your boundaries, its presence may still constitute a nuisance and/or unreasonably interfere with your use and enjoyment of the land.

Legal Remedies:

Before seeking legal remedies, your property title deeds should be reviewed to determine whether your property is burdened by and has rights granted to your neighbour’s which allows them the right to encroach into your airspace. The property deeds should also be reviewed to determine whether the ownership to the airspace above your property has been excluded from your ownership and instead owned by someone else.

If, however, there are no references to the ownership of and/or rights over your airspace and there is trespass by your neighbour, there may be several legal remedies available, including:

  1. Negotiation and Mediation: In some cases, disputes over airspace rights can be resolved through negotiation or mediation, where both parties work together to find a mutually acceptable solution without resorting to litigation. This is the advisable route in resolving such disputes, as resorting to litigation would be more costly, stressful and time-consuming. Negotiating through such disputes could also help to maintain a peaceful neighbourhood relationship.
  2. Injunctions: you can seek injunctive relief from the courts to prevent further trespassing into your airspace. An injunction may compel the trespassing neighbour to cease the activity causing the trespass and remove or alter any offending structures or objects.
  3. Damages: Trespassing into airspace may result in economic harm, such as loss of property value or interference with the use of the land. It may also impact your ability to extend your property, should you want to build an extension as an example. You may seek compensation for these damages through legal action, including claims for nuisance or trespass.

How can Pinney Talfourd help?

In conclusion, property owners enjoy certain rights to the airspace above their land, subject to reasonable limitations and regulations. When a neighbour trespasses into this airspace, property owners have legal remedies available to address the infringement of their rights and seek appropriate redress. By understanding these rights and remedies, property owners can protect their airspace interests and maintain harmonious relationships with neighbours.

For more information, please contact our Property Litigation department who would be happy to assist in reviewing your property title deeds and through any litigation that may arise in resolving airspace ownership issues.

The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Zeliha Sari, Trainee Solicitor in the Property Litigation team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of May 2024.



Zeliha Sari

Zeliha Sari


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