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Right to Light

In English Law a right to light is a form of easement that gives a long-standing owner of a building with windows a right to maintain the level of illumination. They are most usually acquired under the Prescription Act 1832.

In effect, the owner of a building with windows that have received natural daylight for 20 years or more is entitled to forbid any construction or other obstruction that would deprive him of that illumination. Neighbors cannot build anything that would block the light without permission. The owner may build more or larger windows but cannot enlarge his new windows before the new period of 20 years has expired. Rights to light are therefore sometimes described as ancient lights. It is also possible for a right to light to exist if granted expressly by deed, or granted impliedly, for example under the rule in Wheeldon v. Burrows.

Once a right to light exists the owner of the right is entitled to "sufficient light according to the ordinary notions of mankind": Colls v. Home & Colonial Stores Ltd (1904). Courts rely on expert witnesses to define this term. Since the 1920s experts have used a method proposed by Percy Waldram to assist them with this. Waldram suggested that ordinary people require 1 foot-candle of illuminance (approximately 10 lux) for reading and other work involving visual discrimination. This equates to a sky factor (similar to the daylight factor) of 0.2 per cent. Today, Waldram's methods are increasingly subject to criticism [1] [2] and the future of expert evidence in rights to light cases is currently the subject of much debate within the surveying profession. [3]


  • Rights to Light Surveying Practice - Paul Chynoweth, University of Salford.
  • Rights to Light Law - Jonathan Karas QC.


  • Lance Harris (2006) Anstey's Rights of Light, Fourth Edition, RICS Books.
  • Stephen Bickford-Smith & Andrew Francis (2007) Rights of Light: The Modern Law, Second Edition, Jordans.
  • Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) - Daylight Group Meeting, Bartlett School of Architecture.
  • Party Wall and Rights to Light Forum.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Right_to_Light". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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