Case Summary Scott v Aimiuwu 
This case was heard in the Central London County Court and, whilst not binding authority, is of interest because it is the first rights of light case to be heard since the Supreme Court’s decision in Coventry v Lawrence .
The case involved two residential properties, one of which was extended and infringed rights of light to side windows in the neighbouring house.
The judge refused an injunction because:
- The injury was small and the diminution in value resulting from the loss of light was small compared with the overall value of the claimants’ property.
- The injury was to secondary space, namely a garage/workshop, utility room and bathroom, and had not had a significant impact on the claimants’ enjoyment of their home.
An injunction ordering the house extension to be cut back would be oppressive, given the effect it would have on the defendants’ family and the cost of doing so. The adverse effect on the defendants would have been much greater than the beneficial effect on the claimants.
- The defendants had mistakenly thought they were entitled to proceed as they had planning permission and they seemed to have had advice that the loss of light was minor and could be addressed with money.
The '50:50 rule' is a useful rule of thumb, not a hard and fast rule of law. Rooms may require less or more light, depending on all the circumstances.
Assessment of damages
In awarding damages the judge rejected share of profit because he had “no real evidence that the Defendants have made a profit out of this part of their extension and it was not, in my judgment, a cynical ploy on their part to extract the most value from their property as a speculative investment but rather an extension to their family home”.
He therefore considered evidence of the ‘book value’ of the light loss and said that in a hypothetical negotiation “in the end it would be a haggle with the surrendering party giving weight to a range of different considerations as to the impact of the prospective loss of amenity and with the other party having regard to the advantages of securing the surrender. It would not be a simple question of agreeing a multiplier in order to produce a figure that was a multiple of the notional book loss.”
In awarding damages of £30,000 against a book value for the light loss of £11,569, the judge gave consideration to the fact that the utility, flexibility and enjoyment of the spaces had been diminished, the sky was less visible, the neighbouring building appeared to loom larger than before, it was necessary to make more use of electric light and there was a general impression of greater dimness. He also awarded some minor additional damages for a temporary interference whilst scaffolding was in place.
The judgement in Scott v Aimiuwu does not, in our opinion, change how the law should be interpreted in terms of what is actionable, when an injunction might be awarded or the methods of calculating damages. As always, each case turns on its own facts and it would be right for developers to remain cautious, particularly where there will be material impact on light to primary rooms in dwellings.
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