The lights go on, the lights go off, the lights go on, the lights go off. Such was Martin Creed’s Turner Prize winning installation (and I will not hear a word against Creed – I warn you now, any objection will be met with a lengthy analysis of late modernism seen through the lens of the the utopian failure of early 19th century German Romanticism. You don’t want to risk that). However, lights going on and off are apparently at the root of a dispute between a leaseholder and the management company at Embassy Court in Bournemouth.
The problem was the installation of motion sensitive light controls in the common parts of the block of holiday apartments. Dr and Mrs Coleman, who leased an apartment in the block, objected to the fitting of these light systems. The Colemans are orthodox Jews, who observe the sabbath. One part of the ‘no work’ sabbath rules is switching on or off lights or other electrical switches. The Colemans were distressed to find themselves unable to leave their apartment without turning the lights on. The Colemans had offered to pay for an override switch so that the sabbath was free of lights going on and off, but this was rejected by the managment company.
Now, apparently, the Colemans are bringing proceedings under Equality Act 2006 and the HRA 1998, although they say they are happy to settle on agreement to install the override switch and costs.
The management firm (co-owned by the leaseholders) said, slightly bizarrely:
almost all residents supported the installation of the sensors and taking legal action was the Colemans’ “prerogative”.
The Colemans are apparently bullish about their chances. For myself, without knowing the details, maybe rather less so. I can’t see how the HRA applies, for instance, unless it is an argument about the Court’s duty as public body, which seems like a stretch at this point.
It might be that the Colemans would have a better argument under the forthcoming Equality Bill. That said, although I am as secular as a secular thing in a material universe can be, and walk under black cats at every opportunity, I do feel a certain sympathy with the Colemans.
The no doubt well intentioned dictatorship of the majority in managment companies can result in situations that are intensely difficult for individuals and it would be difficult to cast the Colemans’ solution as unreasonable. We’ll have to see if the Equality Bill might make a more clear cut rejoinder to situations like these.