First right-to-light case since Coventry v Lawrence (2014) settled with interesting results for developers

Ref. Scott v Aimiuwu (2015)

Last year, the Supreme Court passed judgement in Coventry v Lawrence and revised the basis on which injunctive relief, and damages, should be awarded. The case of Scott v Aimiuwu is the first to be reviewed since this judgement and provided a ruling which will be of interest to developers and homeowners alike.

Mr and Mrs Aimiuwu own a property in Potters Bar which, during 2012/13, they extended substantially. This gave rise to a claim from their next door neighbours, Mr and Mrs Scott, who argued that the new development interfered with the passage of light into 4 windows on the flanking wall of their property. The Aimiuwus continued with the development regardless of the complaints.

Mr and Mrs Scott sought an injunction at trial requiring the Aimiuwus to reduce the extension by a substantial 92 square metres, but they had not sought an emergency injunction to actually prevent the works proceeding.

The result was that the presiding Judge, Edward Cole of Falcon Chambers acting in the Central London County Court, declined to grant an injunction but awarded damages of £31,499. He reasoned that an injunction requiring demolition of the extension would be oppressive and punitive to the owners. The windows affected were in fact to the garage/workshop, bathroom and utility room and living conditions would therefore be only slightly effected.

Had the windows been to a living room, lounge or kitchen, the result may well have been different. But developers will no doubt take away from this case that, if they act reasonably, ensure they receive expert advice and avoid effecting primary habitable rooms they will not be unduly held up by adjoining owners.

Of further interest, damages were calculated on the basis of what the parties would reasonably have negotiated to settle the matter at an early stage – not as a share of the profits. The book value of the loss was about £12,000 calculated in the conventional manner, but the Court applied a 2.5 multiplier and awarded £30,000. A further £1,499 was allocated for the temporary interference suffered whilst the extensive scaffolding was erected.

Developers will now know that, moving forward, they are unlikely to need to share profits with an adjoining owner affected by right to light issues. Developers are always seeking to mitigate and transfer risk, so this news will be warmly welcomed by many.

SRJ  12.05.15

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