More and more often, we are being contacted by people who are having issues with their neighbours’ security lights. Most commonly, this involves occasions at night when security lights are being tripped due to passing wildlife. This in turn causes bright lights to intrude into a neighbour’s bedroom and disturb their sleep.
Artificial lighting can cause two kinds of legal nuisance.
A private nuisance is any act or omission on a person’s land that interferes with the enjoyment of a neighbour’s property. The courts have held on at least three separate occasions that security lights or floodlights can cause a private nuisance and have awarded compensation, or granted an injunction, to the victims of the nuisance.
In the eyes of the law, the duty is not on victims of nuisance to more thoroughly protect themselves. As seen in the Tate Modern privacy case, the Supreme Court held that even though protective measures, such as installing blinds, could be taken, this does not absolve the person permitting the nuisance from being liable. The same principle applies to nuisance caused by excessive security lighting and the similar argument of installing thicker curtains.
Under S.79(fb) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, a statutory nuisance is: artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance. Local authorities are under a duty to investigate complaints relating to artificial light. If they are satisfied that a nuisance exists, or is about to occur, they must serve an abatement notice on the offending party. In some circumstances, it is even possible for members of the public to serve an abatement notice directly on the offending party.
If the abatement notice is not complied with, the matter can then be escalated to the Magistrates Court who can impose a fine or transfer the matter to the High Court for an injunction. However, it is worth noting that exceptions to the Act apply such as light emitted from public land.
Pinney Talfourd are experts in commercial and residential property litigation and can advise you on changes to the law so you are given up to date advice. Please do not hesitate to contact either Stephen Eccles on 01708 463202 or Oliver-James Topping on 01708 463227 should you wish to discuss anything further.
The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Oliver-James Topping, Associate in the Residential 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 2023.