Since its recent launch in the UK and around the world, Pokémon Go has quickly become one of the fastest and most popular mobile apps available. The app has not only attracted the interest of millions of children, but also adults who want to reminisce in a childhood once forgotten. Whilst the dangers of personal injury and crime are more obvious, what are the implications for homeowners/tenants?
What should we be concerned about more – the fact that house prices may increase or decrease according to its popularity or that the actual game could cause potential claims of trespass, nuisance, harassment and anti-social behaviour?
Should we ignore possible claims of nuisance etc if Pokémon Go could have a positive impact on house prices?
Some landlords/homeowners have used the fact that a property is close to a Poké Stop or Gym as a selling point for their property. In particular landlords have found they can increase their rental prices if their properties are located within the close vicinity of the same (hence points of interest). Some landlords/sellers have even turned the fact that their property is a long walk from public transport as a selling point, as it means players can use their daily trip to work to hatch ‘eggs’ in the game which only occurs once a certain distance has been walked. Businesses too have welcomed the increased footfall that being close to a Poké stop or Gym can bring to an area.
However some unsuspecting homeowners consider things very differently and have found this new found attention on their homes less than welcome.
The app uses pre-selected ‘points of interest’ to select where Poké stops and Gyms are located. A problem that has arisen with this is that a number of buildings, such as old churches (which are considered to be points of interest) have since been converted into domestic homes. For people living in such homes, they have reported a steady stream of unwanted passersby turning up around their home to play the popular app. Unlike some landlords/homeowners who have used this as a selling point, others believe this will in fact have a detrimental effect on their house price. A once peaceful street could now be regularly frequented by players of Pokémon GO.
Having been involuntarily selected as a Poké Stop or Gym in itself could be an issue, as these homeowners have had no choice in the matter. They have no control over the virtual space around their property. This can result in dozens of unwanted visitors looking for Charizard, turning up at their door without notice. Such an experience could be awkward to say the least!
If indeed you found the price of your property were to increase as a result of Pokémon Go though, would you be as pleased with this if it meant offsetting the gain with the potential rise in nuisance and harassment caused? What are the risks?
Many players of the app inadvertently run the danger of falling foul of privacy and housing law by trespassing onto private property. Even if not physically on a person’s doorstep to play the app, a homeowner could still claim harassment if they felt intimidated and had reasons for a complaint. In such circumstances they would be within their rights to call the police for trespass or harassment. How far would players go to find Pikachu?
What may be an innocent case of people turning up to play Pokémon Go outside your home throughout the day, could mistakenly turn into anti-social behaviour. But what can a homeowner/tenant do? There is currently no legislation to deal with such an issue.
Unfortunately it is a common trend that the development of technology outpaces the creation of legislation to govern these new innovations. It is not currently possible for people to remove their homes from the popular app. However if it has a positive impact on your house value – do you want it to be removed? What if your neighbours were to remove it if you did not want it to be? But if house prices increase due to the popular game, are homeowners and neighbours wrong to ignore potential claims of trespass, nuisance, harassment and anti-social behaviour?