What are homeowners' rights if they're overlooked?
A Supreme Court ruling in favour of a group of flat owners whose homes are overlooked by the Tate Modern’s viewing gallery has opened up the question of if this changes home privacy rights.
Residents of the Neo Bankside development on London’s South Bank took legal action in 2018 against the gallery’s board of trustees in a bid to stop "hundreds of thousands of visitors" looking into their homes from the Tate’s viewing platform.
The flats, which are worth millions of pounds, are less than 40 metres away from the gallery’s viewing platform and feature floor-to-ceiling windows.
The supreme court ruled in favour of the residents on Wednesday, and set a new precedent under nuisance laws, something that has been described as surprising by lawyers.
What are homeowners' rights if they feel they are being unfairly viewed?
The Tate Modern ruling is an extreme example and will be very difficult to apply to normal disputes between neighbours in regular houses.
Normally people have legal recourse under either data protection laws, harassment or invasion of privacy, but the supreme court has now set the precedent that it is plausible that simply observing someone in their home is a legal nuisance.
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The supreme court emphasised this only applied to extreme circumstances like the Tate Modern case because half a million people a year could look into their homes and binoculars were available.
Richard Cressall, partner at law firm Gordons told Yahoo News UK this makes it unlikely the new precedent will extend to more common disputes in normal cul de sacs.
The supreme court did mention in their ruling the impact of cameras and surveillance like CCTV and Ring doorbells.
Cressall said a case in Oxford last year also created a new precedent when a judge ruled a Ring doorbell amounted to a breach of data protection laws of someone's neighbour.
He said: "If the security camera does more than it needs to do, more than is reasonably necessary and captures data, then that's a breach of data protection law."
Cressall said it is usually very hard to argue someone is viewing your house too much in a court of law.
He said if a neighbour has a good view of your garden from their window and you occasionally see them looking in then trying to stop it through legal means "won't get you anywhere."
"Now if your neighbour with the view of your garden had a sign up in the street saying 'come look at this garden' then you might have a case."
He also said if your neighbour put a CCTV camera up on their property that has a good view of your bedroom then you may have a case.
He said: "It is only in extreme cases when you will able to complain," noting most CCTV cameras are found to be reasonable.
Cressall also said there is no legal difference between commercial properties like offices or houses.
He says when considering a legal complaint a lot of factors had to be taken into account.
If it involves a CCTV camera then questions over what exactly it could see, the quality of the recording, whether it also records sounds, and a range of other topics need to be considered.
All of this is necessary to decide if the camera is 'reasonable', and Cressall said over 50% of the time they are considered to be legally reasonable.
Cressall said despite this cases about cameras and Ring doorbells are "extremely common" but they don't often get as far as court due to the high costs involved.