The case of Metropolitan Housing Trust v RMC FH Co  EWHC 2609 (Ch), highlights the importance of thinking about rights to light and ensuring developers are negotiating with the right parties.
RMC was the freeholder of a block of 20 flats on Royal Mint Street, London of which Metropolitan Housing Trust enjoyed a lease of 127 years. A developer, having obtained planning permission, proposed to develop a site opposite the block of flats. RMC and Metropolitan realised that once the development was completed, it would cause an ‘actionable interference’ with their property’s right to light. Metropolitan realising a potential commercial opportunity, sought a declaration from the court that they were at liberty to release their right to light in exchange for compensation.
RMC argued that, in doing so, Metropolitan would be breaching the following term of the head lease:
‘Not to give permission for any new window, light opening, doorway, path, passage, drain or other encroachment to be made, nor to permit any easement to be acquired upon, or against, the demised premises which might be or grow to the damage, annoyance or inconvenience of the landlord.’
The court ruled that releasing Metropolitan’s right to light was indeed an encroachment and did not therefore grant the declaration. Considering this decision developers should be aware of how rights to light can impact development plans and ensure they are negotiating with the correct parties. Where developers are unsure, legal advice should be sought to review the leases carefully and ascertain to what extent the tenant can grant the release of such a right.
For more information on this topic, please contact Stephen Meade.