High Court Sheds Light on a Dimly Lit Property’s Right to Light

In the recent case of Beaumont Business Centres Limited v Florala Properties Limited ( Beaumont Business Centres Limited v Florala Properties Limited [2020] EWHC 550 ) the High Court reiterated that the court can and will grant an injunction to protect a right to light, rejecting any suggestion that a poorly lit room wouldn’t benefit from this right.

Beaumont Business Centres Limited was the tenant of a building adjacent to a development by Florala Properties and claimed that the new extension interfered with their right to light.

Florala argued:

That the part of Beaumont’s building which was affected was already poorly lit and relied on artificial light. As the new extension merely made a dim room darker, no real loss was suffered.

The court rejected this and confirmed that all Beaumont had to prove was that the loss of light made the room less comfortable and less attractive. As the rooms were let as serviced offices, Beaumont was able to prove that the rooms attracted a lesser rent than the unaffected rooms so that the loss was clear.

That Beaumont sought the injunction simply as a way to encourage Florala to pay a “ransom” payment to allow the development to remain.

The court was very clear in restating that an injunction is the primary remedy available to it and that an award of damages was always discretionary.

Florala has sought leave to appeal, however developers and those advising them should take heed of this decision because:

  • Beaumont was simply the tenant of the building but the court agreed that they had an interest to protect. Previously, developers may have taken a more relaxed view about the possibility of a successful claim by a tenant, but they must now be considered seriously.
  • The court granted the injunction ordering Florala to cut back their development even though it had already been let on a long lease to a third party. Beaumont was granted a declaration to seek an injunction and join in Florala’s tenant if so advised. 
  • When considering the amount of damages which Beaumont would be entitled to in lieu of the injunction, the court found the Waldram test to be a useful starting point and also looked at radiance evidence. However, the court calculated that a payment of one third of the development profit was an appropriate payment, so the suggested payment to Beaumont was £350,000.

Stewart Title’s Underwriting Team have vast experience writing Rights of Light policies on both a “wait and see” and/or an “approved conduct” basis. They are always ready to discuss projects with you, working closely with you on a suitably structured policy to sit as cover behind a development. The team can be contacted on 02070107820 or by email to robert.kelly@stewart.com.

31 March 2020 - E&W

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