Let there be light! (Or a policy to cover the loss of it!)
Being based in Manchester, Bridge Insurance Brokers Ltd is quite familiar with the sight of cranes. Our skyline has changed dramatically over the last few years as more high-rise buildings take shape for both commercial and residential use. Last year, it was widely reported that there were more tall buildings proposed for Manchester than for any other European city outside London.
This city, therefore, perfectly illustrates the need for developers to ensure they have the correct and specific cover for their plans – as exemplified recently with the case of Manchester New Square. The £83m apartment scheme, which is offering a range of high spec one, two and three bedroom apartments in a highly desirable and very busy part of the city, has been hit with a number of complaints from residents in neighbouring buildings, accusing the developers of infringing upon their ‘rights of light’.
The legal standpoint
Property law decrees that any building with windows has a legal right to a certain level of illumination, and if new structures block that light – as high rises tend to do – then the developer can expect to hear from those whose aspect has been altered. Under Section III of the Prescription Act 1832, a resident can claim for rights of light, if it has enjoyed that light for 20 years or more in an uninterrupted fashion. It’s worth noting that the right of light is not absolute – and the focus is on the amount of light that a room is left with, as opposed the light that has been lost. If there is still plenty of light left, then no injury will be seen to have been caused.
It’s complex, and varies on a case by case basis, but long-term residents can still claim for compensation if your building takes away or impacts on their light. Even if all the boxes were checked and every part of the insurance process thoroughly executed, this can be missed. As many of the high-rise buildings being planned are right in the city centre, often next to much older buildings, it has to be on the list. Your neighbour may be residential or commercial but they could still have a case and could cost you a lot of time and money. The worst case scenario is an order of partial or full demolition, but even if a claimant does not seek to prevent the development from starting, or have the completed building removed, they may be entitled to significant compensation in recompense for the infringement of their rights.
The insurance solution
This is why you need to consider the issue of light from the very start. When you first purchase land that you intend to build on, you need to be considering a series of indemnity policies – and there is one created specifically for the light issue.
A Rights of Light insurance policy can cover the cost of any compensation claims from neighbouring residents, and if the case does cause delays it may cover the cost of any aborted or paused work while compensation claims are settled – as well covering any potential devaluation of the site. As every case is unique, Rights of Light policies are all different as they are tailored to individual developments. But they need to be on every developer’s list of actions. So if you are a property developer looking to build in an urban area, call Bridge to discuss the policies you need to protect your project every step of the way.
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