RHJ Ltd v FT Patten (Holdings) Ltd and Another: ChD 13 Jul 2007

The court was asked whether the grant of a lease including a clause reserving: ‘All rights to the access of light or air from the said adjoining property known as Victoria House and Graham House to any of the windows of the demised property.’ allowed the tenant to claim a right of light over neighbouring land belonging to the landlord so as to prevent development. The lease also reserved to the landlord: ‘The full and free right to erect, build, re-build and or alter as they think fit at any time and from time to time any buildings or bays or projections to buildings on any land adjoining the demised property and/or on the opposite sides of the adjoining streets and access ways.’
Lewison J said: ‘The real distinction that the cases draw is, as it seems to me, between clauses that deal with the position as it exists at the date of the lease, and clauses that deal with what might happen in the future. Clauses of the first kind are effective only to prevent the creation of easements by express or implied grant; and do not prevent the subsequent acquisition of a right of light by prescription. Clauses of the second kind may prevent the acquisition of a right of light by prescription of what they authorise would interfere with light. If, on a fair reading of the clause they do, then it is not necessary, in my judgment, for the clause to use the word ‘light’. Nor, in my judgement, is it necessary for the clause to provide that the enjoyment of light is ‘permissive’. What is needed is that the clause makes it clear that the enjoyment of light is not absolute and indefeasible. The court must ‘find out the substance of the contract’: in other words it is a question of interpretation of the clause in question. Once the clause has been interpreted, that interpretation will have been ‘expressly’ agreed. A clause in a lease which authorises the landlord to build as he pleases is likely to satisfy the test.’


Lewison J


[2007] EWHC 1655 (Ch), [2007] NPC 90, [2008] L and TR 7, [2007] 4 All ER 744, [2007] 29 EG 143, [2007] 44 EG 182, [2007] 3 EGLR 1




Prescription Act 1832 3


England and Wales


CitedMarlborough (West End) Ltd v Wilks Head and Eve ChD 20-Dec-1996
A dispute between neighbours was settled by a deed with the following clause: ‘IT IS HEREBY AGREED AND DECLARED that notwithstanding that the Building Owners have placed windows in that part of their new buildings which overlook the premises . .
CitedMitchell v Cantrill CA 1887
In 1864 Sir Humphrey de Trafford granted a 999 year lease of a dwelling house ‘with all rights and appurtenances, legal, used, or reputed, to the said plot of land, except rights, if any, restricting the free use of any adjoining land or the . .

Cited by:

Appeal fromRHJ Ltd v FT Patten (Holdings) Ltd and Another CA 12-Mar-2008
A right to light is an unusual form of easement in the sense that it exists only with regard to the access to light to defined apertures in a building (as opposed to the dominant land generally) and its acquisition depends on actual enjoyment, not . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Landlord and Tenant, Land

Updated: 11 July 2022; Ref: scu.258163