Does anyone know whether a neighbour has a right to look onto your garden if they have put in a window without planning permission but you don’t know how long it has been there?
I’m assuming the right is to light for the window and not a pretty view of your garden which affects your privacy?
Guillaume gave you all the answers, Suzanne, and if I were you, I'd really make very, very sure before adding anything.
Thanks Guillaume, interesting points for us to bear in mind with our planning. Much appreciated.
There are three different legal aspects to consider in this matter. The first one is the right to a view for your neighbour. The second one is to consider the rules applicable to openings and windows from your perspective. The third one is the possibility for a neighbour to challenge a construction for “unusual disturbance”. The first two have been mostly covered by the comments above and I will only add a few elements to it but you may be mostly inconvenienced by the third.
Right to a view for a neighbour
Usually, you cannot have views, windows, balconies or similar projections on the neighbour’s property if there is not 1.90 m (straight view) or 0.60 m (oblique view) between the wall where the opening is situated and the neighbour’s property.
This right does not mean that you have no right to build, provided the construction meets the legal distance.
An illegal opening can only be challenged for 10 years. A right such as a right to a view can be enforced if it existed for at least 30 years. Nevertheless, I came across a Court decision providing that the illegal opening of windows cannot allow a right to a view even after 30 years.
Rules applicable to openings
In a wall not shared between neighbours, openings, iron mesh and glass frame windows are possible. In case of dispute, only a judge can assess the nature of an opening (even authorised by a local authority) in consideration of the materials (glass, translucent glass blocks …) and the level of infringement, if any, on the rights of a neighbour. These openings can only be established 2.60 m above the floor or ground to illuminate the room, when on the ground floor and 1.90 m above the floor for the upper floors.
The existence of an opening does not prevent you from building and possibly block the view as long as it cannot be considered an unusual disturbance.
Unusual disturbance from a neighbour
Your neighbour can render you liable in Court for a new construction on the grounds of an unusual disturbance for him. The neighbour must prove not only the disturbance, but also a loss and that there is a link between the loss and the construction. The existence of the disturbance is assessed independently of the question of the regularity of the construction under planning rules and private law.
Only a judge can assess the unusual nature of the disturbance (e.g. loss of sunlight, loss of a view) and its direct link with the loss that may be economic or aesthetic (often it will be a depreciation of the property value). If the existence of an unusual disturbance is determined, the judge will order its repair in kind (for example, partial or total demolition of the construction) or, more often, compensation (damages).
When construction is built in compliance with planning permission, the legal action for unusual disturbance has no bearings on the assessment of the legality of the planning permission.
It is difficult to say if such disturbance can be raised in Court by a neighbour whose reason for being disturbed is an illegal opening. My guess is that the illegality of a window does not matter but I may be wrong.
On the grounds of an unusual disturbance and even if you obtain planning permission and you complete the works, there is no guarantee that the neighbour will not challenge this at a later date with or without a right to a view.
I hope this helps.
Good grief, that makes it even worse!!
It’s always a tricky point about the property’s right these windows opening onto a neighbor garden… It’s the same for the ‘droit de passage’ (right of way) or other thorny matters!
All depend of the distance between your property’s boundary and the window. You should ask at the Mairie about local rules or how many years this window exists. In certain cases, the owner (of the windows) must use opaque glass and limited opening windows. However the ‘right of the light’ might be granted!
Yes Stuart, fortunately they don’t live there, they’ve only got a scrubby old bit of vegetable garden but the way they carry on you’d think it was the gardens at Versailles!
Ooh I don’t think its been there 30 years. I’m not planning on making them close it off its just we want to build near to it & they may end up with a view of trees or a low roofline so I need to know what our position is, hopefully stronger if they object when they don’t have planning permission in the first place.
I will be going to the Mairie in July to find out what the deal is. Last time I went there for an idea of planning they were very helpful.
Lovely neighbours Wendy
Our neighbour took us to court because we have a window which he says overlooks his garden, however he lost because the floor inside the house is below ground level so the window is too high to see out of. I think it has to have been there for over 30 years for you not to be able to do anything, ours has been in for at least 70 and we had neighbours who testified to that, however he got people to lie and say that we had modified it from opaque glass to transparent glass, it was all very nasty.
Generally, modifications to openings on façades are subject planning permission (espescially where they look out onto someone else’s property).
You can check quite easily at the Mairie whether the requisite permissions have been obtained.