If a fence or structure is built with no beneficial use or pleasure for its owner, it is considered a "spite fence" if the erection and maintenance of the structure was done with the purpose of annoying a neighbor by shutting out light, air, or a view.
What Options Are Available if a Neighbor Constructed a Spite Fence?
If your neighbor builds or maintains a fence or similar structure with the primary purpose of annoying you, there are various statutes which entitle you to sue the landowner for damages or ask the court to compel the landowner to take the fence or structure down. You cannot receive damages for embarrassment or hurt feelings.
Why Does the Government Enact Spite Fence Statutes?
These statues have been enacted because it is generally believed that the use of one's own property for the sole purpose of maliciously injuring another is not an immediate and indestructible right of ownership.
Must a Spite Fence Be Built with Malicious Intent?
A neighbor cannot successfully sue a builder of a fence or structure just because they find the fence annoying. The fence or structure must have been made with the primary purpose being to frustrate the neighbor, and all other purposes of the fence must be incidental. However, if the fence or structure does serve any useful purpose for the owner, courts will rarely award damages or order a takedown of the fence or structure.
What Would I Need to Prove if I Want to Sue My Neighbor?
If you want to sue your neighbor, your complaint must allege that the structure is entirely useless, without value to their property, and was built to annoy you. To have the fence removed you would have to show many things including:
- The fence blocks light, air, or a view
- It reduces the value of your property
- The fence has no functional use
- The fence is unlike other fences in the area
- The fence owner has a malicious motive
Do I Need a Lawyer?
An real estate lawyer can advise you of the spite fence laws in your area and suggest remedies available to you. If you have a neighbor who is accusing you of building a fence out of malice against them, an attorney can protect your rights.