The sun might be shining but what happens when someone builds a wall blocking the summer rays from entering your property?
In the case of Scott v Aimiuwu (2015), Mr and Mrs Aimiuwu owned a property in Potters Bar which, during 2012/13, they extended substantially. This gave rise to a claim from their next-door neighbours, Mr and Mrs Scott, who argued that the new development interfered with the passage of light into 4 windows on the flanking wall of their property. The Aimiuwus continued with the development regardless of the complaints.
Mr and Mrs Scott sought an injunction at trial requiring the Aimiuwus to reduce the extension by a substantial 92 square metres, but they had not sought an emergency injunction to actually prevent the works proceeding.
The result was that the presiding Judge, Edward Cole of Falcon Chambers acting in the Central London County Court, declined to grant an injunction but awarded damages of £31,499. He reasoned that an injunction requiring demolition of the extension would be oppressive and punitive to the owners. The windows affected were in fact to the garage/workshop, bathroom and utility room and living conditions would, therefore, be only slightly affected. Had the windows been in a living room, lounge or kitchen, the result may well have been different.
Property developers will no doubt take away from this case that, if they act reasonably, ensure they receive expert advice and avoid affecting primary habitable rooms they will not be unduly held up by adjoining owners.
Of further interest, damages were calculated on the basis of what the parties would reasonably have negotiated to settle the matter at an early stage – not as a share of the profits. The book value of the loss was about £12,000 calculated in a conventional manner, but the Court applied a 2.5 multiplier and awarded £30,000. A further £1,499 was allocated for the temporary interference suffered whilst the extensive scaffolding was erected.
Property developers will now know that moving forward, they are unlikely to need to share profits with an adjoining owner affected by the right to light issues. Developers are always seeking to mitigate and transfer risk, so this news will be warmly welcomed by many.
The advice is, as with many legal issues, get proper legal advice early from your solicitor to ensure that you have the most options open to you and have a chance to implement them in a reasonable manner. Pinney Talfourd’s commercial property team are happy to advise on these issues as well as any other legal matter concerning your property.
This article was written by Julien Pritchard, Partner and Head of the Commercial Property Department at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. This article is only intended to provide a general summary and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at August 2015.