Real Estate

Property law: can we ban a paparazzo who lurks on our street?

Property law updates

We live next door to a pair of newly famous reality TV stars and every other day we seem to see the same paparazzi photographer on our street, trying to snatch a glimpse (and some photographs) of them, and their baby daughter, in and around the home. Is there anything we or they can do about this? 

It would be for the celebrity couple to take any action as it is their privacy rights that are potentially being infringed. Individuals, including those in the public eye, will generally have a strong expectation of privacy as they go about their daily business at or in the vicinity of their home. This is especially so when children are involved.

Celebrities who have actively courted publicity in their private life will have a reduced expectation of privacy, but even then a persistent paparazzo waiting around near their home is unlikely to be justifiable. Sometimes, you will see photographers crowding a politician as they leave their home in the morning; when they are involved in a matter of significant public interest, an occasional visit such as this to raise questions may not infringe their rights, but repeated activity is a different matter.

I recently looked up the couple online. Their address and pictures of their house appeared on Google. Surely that is not allowed?

While the Land Registry website provides a public register of property ownership, it does not enable users to search by the names of individuals (only by property). So, identifying the address where someone lives provides the connection that the Land Registry does not (unless the address of the property is already known). This means that the identification of your neighbours’ address is highly likely to be a breach of privacy.

Unless an individual’s address is so well known as to be a matter of public record (10 Downing Street, Chequers, Buckingham Palace and various other stately homes spring to mind), its precise location should not generally be identified without consent. These protections apply to any resident, not just celebrities and other public figures. Pictures that do not show the exact location of the property are less likely to be an issue, unless the information displayed within them is enough to give rise to some kind of security risk.

One issue that increasingly arises is the ability to reverse image search, which can enable the location of a property to be identified. An example of this might be a news article using a photo of someone’s home that has been sourced from an estate agent’s website, which in turn does indicate the location of the property. In that instance, most estate agents will be happy to remove the photo and also assist in securing its removal from a news article.

Thomas Rudkin is a senior associate at Farrer & Co

I want to buy my first flat and have a mortgage offer but my lawyer says I can’t proceed because the lease is defective. What does that mean?

The lease is an important document as it sets out the respective rights and obligations of landlord and tenant. It could be defective for many reasons, for example: if the flat has a garden but the lease does not grant exclusive rights over it; if the lease is too short in the length of term; if it has unacceptable ground rent provisions; or if it does not contain adequate provisions for insurance, repair and maintenance.

There must be a solution to whatever the problem is?

It is usually possible to resolve lease defects. This could be by arranging a variation of the terms of the original lease, or by obtaining indemnity insurance, depending on what the issue is.

As the defect is in the seller’s title, usually it would be for the seller to resolve the problem at their cost and direction.

This sounds like it could take some time. I really love the flat so can’t I just go ahead and sort the lease out after completion? I’m getting a share of the freehold company anyway.

Where high street lending is involved, residential property lawyers generally act for both bank and borrower. Your solicitor has a duty to protect your interests and also comply with instructions from the bank and act in their best interests.

Most lenders subscribe to the UK Finance Mortgage Lender’s Handbook which is relatively prescriptive as to what the lease must contain.

Even though you own a share of the freehold you will not have the authority to force a change in the terms of the lease. If you are able to buy in cash and are willing to take a risk on onward sale or finance if the issue isn’t resolved then you can go ahead.

If the mortgage is needed to finance the purchase then you should ask your lawyer to work collaboratively with the seller’s solicitors to discuss the problem and possible solutions and encourage swift action.

Laura Conduit is a partner at Farrer & Co

The legal issues discussed in this column refer to England and Wales. Scenarios have been compiled for illustrative purposes

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