Luxury flat owners lose privacy appeal against Tate Modern


The Tate Gallery viewing platform has been the subject of litigation over a number of years. The owners of four flats in a neighbouring luxury block took Tate Modern to Court claiming that the viewing platform at the Tate was making their lives a misery by people looking into their flats, waving and taking photographs.

The flat owners applied to Court for an injunction to stop/restrict the Tate operating the viewing platform – claiming such was in law a nuisance and so actionable.

The Tate Gallery board of trustees defended the injunction and said the flat owners could simply draw the blinds.

Is it a nuisance?

The case came to Court in February 2019. The High Court while accepting that members of the public could look straight into the flats, dismissed the flat owners claim for an injunction, agreeing with Tate Modern that the owners could lower their blinds or draw their curtains. There was no nuisance.

In a ruling on Wednesday 12 February 2020, the Court of Appeal dismissed the flat owners challenge to that ruling on the grounds that “overlooking does not fall within… the tort of nuisance”. Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused.

Invasion of privacy

In an interesting aside, the Court of Appeal said that what the resident flat owners were really complaining about was invasion of privacy rather than damage to a property interest.It commented that there are already laws on privacy, and it is for parliament to formulate any further laws, dealing with privacy. It is not for the Courts.

The case is interesting in showing the Court of Appeal’s current view that it will not further develop the Law of Nuisance to cover what it believes is a privacy issue and that parliament would need to legislate if privacy laws were to be extended to prevent overlooking. Quite how one could ever enforce a law against overlooking in a crowded city such as London is an interesting point. There are few houses or flats in London that do not have a view of someone else’s windows!

More information

Pinney Talfourd Solicitors has a team of expert litigation lawyers with significant experience in dealing with issues surrounding nuisance and boundary matters relating to properties.This article was written by Stephen Eccles, Partner in the Residential Property Litigation Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of February 2020.


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