Rights of light, views and privacy: an overview


What is a right of light?




A right of light is an easement which gives a  property  owner a right to enjoy natural light that enters a building through a defined aperture, most commonly through a window.   Both landlords and individual flat owners can acquire a right of light and this right doesn’t need to be written down. The most common way in which they are acquired is by 20 years usage. A  right of  light is often used by both flat owners and landlords to stop developments on neighbouring land.

In  contrast, there is no right to a view in English law. The Court of Appeal has also confirmed in the recent case of Fearn v Tate Gallery that overlooking does not fall within the scope of common law nuisance. Therefore, rights of light are often used to protect a view or to prevent the  privacy of  flat dwellers  being  compromised  by a  new development which directly overlooks an existing block.

Although rights of light can be granted expressly,  this is relatively rare. Reservations of rights of light to landlords in leases are relatively common. A flat owner may believe that he has acquired a right of light by prescription because he has enjoyed the light to his window for a period in excess of 20 years.  However, if his lease says that the right of light is reserved to his landlord, then it is the landlord who has a right to pursue the claim, not the tenant.


There are two possible remedies for unlawfully interfering with a right to light: an injunction or damages. 

Once there is an actionable interference with a right of light, then there is the possibility that an injunction could be granted by the Court; either to prevent a development from being constructed or to cut back one that had already been constructed. The vast majority of rights of light cases are resolved with a payment of damages without proceedings ever being issued, or even contemplated and a deed of release of rights of light entered into. 


Angela Gregson is a partner in the property disputes team at RWK Goodman.

< Back