Rights of light, while of ancient origin, can be a modern-day headache for developments in built-up areas.
The recent High Court decision in Metropolitan Housing Trust Limited v RMC FH Co Ltd  EWHC 2609 (Ch) highlights that, when negotiating the release of rights to light over a development site, particular care is needed when nearby buildings are tenanted.
In this case the tenant of a building was prepared to release a right to light it had acquired over an adjoining development site in return for a financial sum. The landlord, who owned the freehold, challenged this as it did not want the right released.
The court held that the right to light acquired by the tenant attached to the freehold interest. As such, the right was part of the demised premises, so that any release by the tenant without the consent of the landlord would amount to a breach of a term in its lease not to permit an encroachment upon the demised premises.
The upshot was that the tenant could not unilaterally release the right to light it enjoyed. What is more the court confirmed that thelandlord/freeholder also had the benefit of the right to light over the development site.
Rights to light can be an expensive hurdle for developers at the best of times. Tenanted buildings are clearly a particular minefield not only because multiple parties with an interest in a building may enjoy rights to light, but also – as illustrated by this case - because lease terms may have to be taken into account in negotiations.
For further information please contact Sian Skerratt-Williams or your usual contact at Norton Rose Fulbright.