It has been reported recently that the residents of some high-end flats in central London are bringing a nuisance claim against the owners of the Tate Modern gallery. This is as a result of a new viewing platform which directly overlooks the flats. The residents report that it is like living “in a goldfish bowl”. They have issued proceedings on the grounds that the “viewing platform is unreasonably interfering with the claimants’ enjoyment of their flats, so as to be a nuisance”.
So what is a nuisance?
A private nuisance occurs where someone does something lawfully on their own land, but which interferes with their neighbour’s ability to enjoy their land. Where that nuisance affects the general public, this is likely to be known as a public nuisance. This article will look at private nuisance only.
What might constitute a private nuisance?
There are lots of examples of nuisance. However, examples could include:
Oil leaking from a tank, contaminating the neighbour’s soil;
Noise nuisance from a neighbouring kennels;
Water flooding from a neighbour’s land;
Tree roots causing damage to the neighbour’s land.
A balancing act
A Court will look at a nuisance case, and determine the reasonableness of the situation. Each nuisance case will depend on the facts of each case.
The Court will look at different things when deciding whether someone has caused a nuisance. These include:
Location: e.g. noise from a factory is less likely to be a nuisance if that area has always had factories carrying out similar work.
Time: e.g. if the factory noise is particularly bad at night time, this is more likely to be a nuisance.
Duration, frequency and intensity: as a general rule, the longer, more frequent and intense the issue, the more likely it is to be a nuisance.
Sensitivity of the claimant: a court will assess the nuisance according to the effect on a reasonable claimant, as opposed to one who is particularly sensitive.
Maliciousness: a court will more likely assess an issue as a nuisance where the Defendant has behaved maliciously.
What about where a claimant moves to a property where there is already a nuisance ongoing?
The Supreme Court has looked at this fairly recently in Coventry and others v Lawrence and others  UKSC 13. In this case, the Supreme Court noted that it is not generally a defence to a claim in nuisance to show that the claimant “came to the nuisance” by buying or moving into their property after the nuisance had started.
What remedies are available?
A claimant’s usual aim will be for nuisance to stop. It is therefore common for people to apply to the court for an injunction ordering the party to stop the nuisance, or indeed to do something that will then stop that nuisance.
A claimant may also be entitled to damages. These would be with a view to putting the claimant in the position they would have been had the nuisance not occurred. Damages can be awarded alongside the injunction (for the period before the nuisance was stopped), or instead of.
Where actual physical damage has occurred and needs to be rectified, the damages will usually be the amount required to cover the remedial works, plus consequential loss.
Where there has been unreasonable interference with the claimant’s property rights (e.g. where there has been noise nuisance), the damages will usually be calculated on the reduction in value of the property as a result of the nuisance.
It remains to be seen what the Court will make of the alleged nuisance at the Tate. We will keep our blog updated on any developments.
If you are concerned that your neighbour is interfering with your right to enjoy your property, our property disputes team can help. Call today on 0800 988 7756 for a free consultation.