Nosey neighbours - a legal nuisance?

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04 March, 2020

Fearn and others v The Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery [2020] EWCA Civ 104.

"Overwhelming weight of judicial authority…is that mere overlooking is not capable of giving rise to a cause of action in private nuisance" so say the Court of Appeal.

What are the facts of the case?

The facts of this case have been very widely reported. In 2016 the viewing platform at the Tate Gallery in London was opened, offering 360 degree panoramic views of the capital. Unfortunately, for the residents of Neo Bankside luxury apartments it also offered a clear view into their glass walled home.

A number of residents commenced legal action arguing that the viewing platform constituted a nuisance and breached their human rights to respect for private life, family life, home and correspondence.

The case went to the High Court who disagreed with the residents. The Court found that in purchasing properties with glass walls, the residents had "created or submitted themselves to an increased sensitivity to privacy". Curtains were suggested.

The Court also found that as the Tate was not exercising functions of a public nature, the claim under Article 8 failed.

The Appeal to the Court of Appeal

The residents appealed to the Court of Appeal where once again, the court found in favour of the Tate, though for different reasons.

Can overlooking someone else's property give rise to a claim in nuisance?

The short answer to that is no. The Court considered the case of Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd v Williams and another [2018] EWCA Civ 1514 in which the principles for a cause of action in nuisance were considered and overlooking a property was not one of these principles. A wide range of case law was considered along with the practical ways neighbourly conduct can have an impact on the enjoyment of ones home. Th court considered the limitations that would have to be placed to prevent those actions causing the nuisance.

The Court concluded that overlooking did not create an action in nuisance.

What about the right to respect for private life, family life, home and correspondence?

The Court held that there was no reason to extend the tort of nuisance to overlooking because the European Court of human Rights has not ruled so, and to extend to overlooking would alter the law of private nuisance.

Our neighbours come in all forms from individuals to museums and everything in between. There is no guarantee that "good neighbours become good friends".

For more information contact Laura Hallett Lea in our Dispute Resolution department via email or phone on 0333 207 1141. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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