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Most Common Real Estate Issues

What is the General Law Regarding my View?

In general, you have no right to light, air or view, unless it has been granted in writing by a law or subdivision rule. The exception to this general rule is that someone may not deliberately and maliciously block another's view with a structure that has no reasonable use to the owner.  This rule encourages building and expansion, but the consequences are sometimes harsh.

What Can I Do if my View Becomes Blocked?

The law will help only if: 

How Can a View Ordinance Help?

A few cities where property overlooks the ocean or particularly desirable vistas have adopted view ordinances.  These laws protect property owners from having their view obstructed by growing trees. These laws don't cover buildings or other structures that block views.  Also, these laws typically only apply when the view existed when the property was purchased.  You can't after the fact ask for your view back

How Do View Ordinances Work?

These laws work by allowing someone who has lost their view to sue the person creating the obstruction to restore the view.  Courts require that persons who have recently had their view obstructed first engage in "self help" and ask the neighbor to remove the obstruction.  The complaining person usually bears the cost of trimming or topping, unless the tree was planted after the law became effective, or the owner refuses to cooperate.

Do View Ordinances Have Exceptions that Would Still Allow my View to Be Obstructed?

It is common for view ordinances to contain extensive limitations significantly limiting their usefulness.  Some examples: 

If my City Has No View Ordinance, What Can I Do?

Other local laws may be of use to you if your city has no view ordinance.  The following are some examples of helpful laws: 

Are Condominium Homeowners' Associations of any Help Here?

As many condo areas are the subject of "conditions, covenants, and restrictions" (CCR's) there are often many view restrictions in condo areas.  Consult with your homeowners' manual or local association if you are in this type of living arrangement and have a view issue.

Can I Protect the View of a House I Am Buying?

Before you purchase, you should check if you house has a view ordinance on it.  In addition, check to make sure what the view is around you before you buy.  A tree that does not block you now can become an obstruction later, but you cannot later go back and sue over that tree then.  Also, check the records to see if any of your neighbors have view ordinances, or certain adverse building rights which may affect you. 

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Last Modified: 05-07-2012 02:32 PM PDT

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