Phipps v Pears [1965] 1 QB 76, CA

Negative easement of protection against the weather by a neighbour’s house

Facts

The plaintiff and defendant both owned houses which were adjacent to one another, on Market Street, Warwick. Phipps did not insulate his house, including the wall which bordered the house of the Pears. The reason was that he felt the houses on either side provided his house with enough insulation. Pears demolished his house. As a result, Phipps house became exposed to the elements and cracks appeared on the wall, as a result of exposure to the weather. Phipps started the action seeking compensation for the damage to his house, claiming that he had a prescriptive right to have his house protected from the elements by the neighbouring house. Essentially, he claimed a negative easement which prevented the adjoining house from being demolished.

Issue

The issue in this case was whether it was possible for the owner of one house to claim a right to have his house protected by the elements from another house and therefore, whether it was possible for the claim negative easement against an adjoining house being torn down to exist?

Held

The court rejected the claim and held that a mere loss of some benefit derived to one’s property by an action of his neighbour on his own property as not sufficient ground to claim a negative easement.

“Every man is entitled to pull down his house if he likes. If it exposes your house to the weather, that is your misfortune. It is no wrong on his part. Likewise, every man is entitled to cut down his trees if he likes, even if it leaves you without shelter from the wind or shade from the sun, see the decision of the Master of the Rolls in Ireland. There is no such easement known to the law as an easement to be protected from the weather.” (Lord Denning)