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Housing Solicitors

Neighbour disputes: privacy law and nuisance claims (15 March 2019)

Date: 15/03/2019
Duncan Lewis, Housing Solicitors, Neighbour disputes: privacy law and nuisance claims

Following the recent ruling, denying the claimant residents of Neo Bankside that they had a legitimate nuisance claim against Tate Modern for breaching their right to privacy, Mr Justice Mann has stated that future claims of this type will have merit in some circumstances. So, if the owners of the floor-to-ceiling glass windowed flats claim did not succeed, then what will?

What is a statutory nuisance?

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 a statutory nuisance is when an external neighbouring works is interfering with your enjoyment or use of your property and/or is causing or will cause harm to your health as a result. This may be due to the neighbouring premises creating:

  • Deposits of waste or rubbish

  • Insect infestations

  • Light pollution

  • Noise (from vehicles, equipment or machinery)

  • Smells (from industry, trade or business)

  • Smoke

It is your local council’s responsibility to investigate claims of statutory nuisance and if they find evidence that it is happening, or will happen in the future, they have the authority to serve the offending premises with an abatement notice.

What if the nuisance is interfering with my privacy?

Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’ and interference should not be permitted unless it ‘is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.’

According to the claimants that brought a nuisance claim against Tate Modern over the tenth floor viewing platform which allows visitors to ogle them in in their homes, this intrusion was in breach of article 8. In his judgment, Mr Justice Mann refuted the claim, stating that "it would be wrong to allow this self-induced incentive to gaze, and to infringe privacy, and self-induced exposure to the outside world, to create a liability in nuisance".

In this case, the fact that the owners of the flats were aware of the architectural design and chose to live in a property that’s most sellable feature is glass walls diminishes their argument that their privacy was interfered with by Tate Modern extending its viewing platform to encompass the full 360 degree view around the gallery.

The former Tate director, Sir Nicholas Serota suggested the residents installed net curtains to avoid the public gaze. Mr Justice Mann readily pointed out that this option would dilute any privacy breach and if the owners opt not to take it then once again it is they who have “created or submitted themselves to a sensitivity to privacy which is greater than would be the case of a less-glassed design”.

With this being said, Mr Justice Mann has said that in other cases of this sort a nuisance claim based on a breach of privacy could be successful, extending the scope whereby a nuisance claim may be brought.

It remains to be seen which nuisance claim will be won based on a breach of privacy, though it has opened the doors for a broader take on this sort of litigation for future claimants. In the meantime, the residents of Neo Bankside are considering an appeal.

As a solicitor and Director, Manjinder Kaur Atwal has over 10 years’ experience dealing with a diverse caseload, including possession claims and eviction matters, landlord and tenant disputes, homelessness, housing disrepair, bringing Judicial Review matters, review/appeals relating to local authority housing decisions, bringing and defending injunctions, boundary disputes, property nuisance/negligence claims, consumer and contractual matters, debt recovery and enforcement.

For expert advice on nuisance claims contact Manjinder on 020 3114 1269, or email her on manjindera@duncanlewis.com.

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