New RICS Rights of Light Professional Standard 3rd Edition

The third edition of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Rights of Light Professional Standard came into force on 1 June 2024 (the Professional Standard). The revised edition introduces a number of updates, including a helpful new rights of light protocol on how disputes should be managed, and an updated summary of case law designed to guide professionals (the Protocol).

The Protocol

Though not mandatory, the Protocol's inclusion shows its importance. It provides guidance to chartered surveyors, landowners, and other involved parties on the handling of rights of light disputes. The Protocol aims to provide an open process that encourages landowners to disclose information promptly to minimise the scope for disputes, to promoting a quick resolution and reducing costs.

The Protocol sets out the standard process to be followed. This includes:

  • An introductory letter and initial response stage - This encourages developers to, where an intended development may result in an interference with access to light, send an introductory letter to an adjoining owner which includes details of the development, steps it wishes to take to ascertain the extent to which development may impact access to light and requests an inspection of the property that benefits from a right of light.  An adjoining owner is expected to respond confirming whether they are agreeable to a right of light inspection.  There is also scope for a landowner who benefits/believes they benefit from a right of light to make the first approach to a developer if they have concerns development may infringe upon their right to light.
  • An exchange of information stage - This is intended to include an inspection of the potentially affected property, some agreement on costs, and reasonable requests for any further information.
  • A dispute resolution stage - This sets out the procedures to be followed in the event of a dispute. There is an emphasis on trying to first resolve the issues without litigation through alternative dispute resolution. 

Each process has a recommended timescale to promote timely disclosure and resolution.

The new Protocol is vital to developers, and landowners who benefit from a right of light. This is because the Protocol provides a clear framework that parties will be expected to follow when dealing with developments that have rights of light concerns. The framework will allow developers the ability to plan their developments in accordance with the anticipated timescales and allow professionals to adequately prepare for each stage of the framework. This brings a host of potential benefits to both landowners and developers as it should increase operational efficiency by allowing resources to be allocated or reallocated when each section of the Protocol is engaged, reducing the overall cost to both parties.

Updated Case Law

The Professional Standard also includes updated case law to reflect recent court rulings on rights of light claims. For example, cases that demonstrate that the anticipated future layouts of properties subject to a benefit to a right of light should be considered when determining the impact of a right of light claim.

The inclusion of recent cases assists landowners and developers because it allows for professionals referring to the Professional Standard to provide better guidance to their clients on the merits or drawbacks of any developments that benefit or are burdened by a right of light. This means practical and legal issues can be narrowed down swiftly and possibly mitigate a potential dispute at the outset.

It is hoped that the Professional Standard will help to assist in resolving disputes concerning rights of light more efficiently, at reduced cost, and outside the court process if possible (where they can become costly and complex).

How can Foot Anstey help?

If you are interested in learning more about this topic or other matters concerning real estate disputes, please contact our team of experts.

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