Balconies in condominiums: is it possible to install privacy panels?


Emma Potter

When living in a condominium, privacy can become a luxury. Many condominium owners, to guarantee a minimum of privacy, find themselves wondering whether or not it is permissible to install privacy panels on their balconies without breaking the rules of architectural decoration.

The installation of such visual barriers, although practical, can in fact clash with stringent regulations related to the aesthetics of buildings.

Is it therefore possible to screen your outdoor spaces without violating the architectural decor? And what are the legally acceptable solutions for maintaining your privacy in a condominium?

In this article, we will explore the laws that regulate such installations, offering a clear and detailed overview to navigate between the right to privacy and respect for architectural heritage.

Regulations and right to privacy

The right to privacy is a value protected by law, even within a condominium context. However, exercising this right does not mean being able to act indiscriminately.

According to thearticle 1122 of the civil codecondominium owners have the freedom to modify their living space as long as they do not cause damage to the common parts of the building, do not compromise stability or safety and do not damage the architectural decorum.

Art. 1122 Civil Code
Works on parts of property or individual use

In the real estate unit owned by him or in the parts normally intended for common use, which have been assigned exclusive ownership or intended for individual use, the condominium owner cannot carry out works that cause damage to the common parts or cause prejudice to the stability, safety or architectural decorum of the building.

In any case, prior notice is given to the administrator who reports it to the meeting.

This last point raises a crucial question: to what extent can we intervene on the external appearance of balconies without altering the aesthetic harmony of the building? And what are the permitted changes that respect both individual privacy and architectural integrity?

Decoration vs. functionality: the aesthetic conflict

The installation of privacy screens or retractable awnings on balconies and terraces often raises doubts about their acceptability in terms of architectural decoration.

The decoration of a building refers not only to its aesthetics but also to its stylistic coherence with other structural elements. Therefore, interventions such as the installation of opaque panels or materials not in harmony with the original design they can be seen as a disturbance to the overall image of the building.

However, the law allows exemptions if such installations are deemed “precarious”, i.e. easily removable without permanent impacts on the structure or aesthetics.

The key question becomes: what solutions can balance the need for privacy with respect for the visual appearance of the building?

Legal guidelines and case law

For those wishing to install privacy screens, it is essential to know and understand the relevant legal guidelines and case law decisions.

The rulings of the Court of Cassation, for example, have clarified that installations intended to guarantee privacy on balconies can be legitimate if they do not exceed the limits of the balcony itself and are easily removable. An example is the sentence no. 5647/2004which recognizes the right to privacy as long as the changes are not invasive or permanent.

Furthermore, the decisions of the Regional Administrative Court such as the Piedmont TAR in sentence no. 18 of 7 January 2020, further consolidated this interpretation, excluding the need for building permits for the installation of privacy screens equivalent to curtains, given their non-permanent nature.

These legal references provide a clear picture of the possibilities and limitations for those seeking privacy solutions in the condominium context, offering direction on how to proceed without breaking the rules.

Conclusions and Final Considerations

The installation of privacy screens or other screening solutions on balconies is an increasingly common practice among condominiums seeking to balance the right to privacy with respect for architectural decorum. It is important, however, that these interventions are carried out in accordance with current regulations and taking into account the relevant case law rulings. The key is to choose precarious and easily removable solutions that do not permanently alter the external appearance of buildings. In this way, conflicts can be minimized and harmonious coexistence within the condominium context ensured.