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Rights to Light: Will an injunction to cut back be awarded even where a redevelopment is completed and fully let? (Beaumont Business Centres Ltd v Florala Properties Ltd – 2020)

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Where a building extension substantially reduces the light to a neighbouring property, is there an actionable nuisance if light to the affected property is already poor in any event, and if so will the Court grant an injunction even where the redevelopment has been completed?

The background

In Beaumont Business Centres Ltd v Florala Properties Ltd [2020], Florala began a development of its building to add a new floor, thereby reducing light to the claimant’s neighbouring serviced office building.

Beaumont objected but Florala continued its development, which was completed and fully let by the time the trial was heard. The court addressed whether:

  1. There was an actionable infringement of Beaumont’s rights to light;
  2. An injunction was appropriate as a remedy;
  3. Whether damages should be awarded in lieu of injunction; and
  4. What the position should be given that the redevelopment was now occupied by a hotel tenant.

The decision

The High Court found that there had been an actionable infringement to Beaumont’s rights to light. The fact that the building was poorly lit to begin with did not make the infringement any more trivial, and proceeded to consider the appropriate remedies.

Throughout the proceedings, Florala had carried on with redevelopment regardless of Beaumont’s objections, stating that Beaumont was only really interested in money rather than light. The judge therefore did not hold back in awarding an injunction requiring Florala to cut back its redevelopment in accordance with Beaumont’s requirements. Further, the redevelopment had affected Beaumont’s ability to let its office space and awarded damages of £350,000.

The hotel tenant had not been joined into proceedings. Unable to make an injunction against a third party not joined into proceedings, the judge left it with Beaumont to decide whether it wished to join in the hotel tenant and seek an injunction against it.

Advice and action

Landlords wishing to redevelop properties where there may be an infringement of rights to light of neighbouring properties are advised to carefully consider this judgment.

Particularly as a result of Florala’s actions and stance during proceedings the decision is robust, protecting Beaumont’s rights even though Florala’s redevelopment had been completed and let to a commercial tenant. Cutting back its redevelopment will incur significant expense for Florala, together with the award of a substantial damages sum.

The High Court found that there had been an actionable infringement. The fact that Beaumont’s building was poorly lit to begin with did not make the infringement any more trivial, and an injunction was granted as a result of Florala’s uncooperative stance during proceedings.

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