A real nuisance!

Fearn and others v Board of Tate Trustees

In a well-publicised case owners of four flats, in a block adjacent to the Tate Modern’s viewing platform, complained that Tate visitors could see straight into their flats from the platform.  These residents had bought their flats before the viewing platform had opened. The flats had large floor to ceiling windows into which they said “hundreds of thousands" of Tate visitors would look, wave and even take photographs.

These flat owners sought an injunction requiring the Tate to stop its visitors from viewing their flats from the platform or an order for damages. Their claim was based on the common law of nuisance.

The High Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed their claims. They appealed to the Supreme Court.

Nuisance is an unreasonable and substantial interference with the use and enjoyment of a person's property. However, there will be no liability if the accused is doing no more than using his land in a common and ordinary manner.

The Supreme Court found that the residents faced an unacceptable level of intrusion, and that the Tate’s viewing platform is not a normal or ordinary use of the museum’s land.  Therefore, it held that the constant visual intrusion was a legal nuisance.

The case will be sent back to the High Court to decide on a suitable remedy.

Will this case lead to more home-owners litigating about being overlooked? It will be a rare case where visual intrusion amounts to a legal nuisance but such litigation may well be explored in more depth as a result of this case.

Posted on 03/02/2023 by Ortolan

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