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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: 

  • A local law protects views
  • An obstruction violates private subdivision rules
  • An obstruction violates some other specific law

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: 

  • Certain species of trees may are often exempt, especially naturally growing ones
  • Sometimes there are limitations that a neighbor may be allowed to complain of an obstruction only if the tree is within a certain distance from his or her property
  • Trees on city property may be exempt

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: 

  • Fence Height Limit laws - Some fences that block your view may also be in violation of local fence law.
  • Tree Laws - Species of trees which cause allergies, are excessively smelly, or harm other plants are often prohibited.  Some laws forbid trees being too close to a street, power lines, or even to an airport.  If you view blocking tree fits this description, it may be ripe for removal.
  • Zoning Laws - Many local zoning regulations control the size, location and uses of buildings.  These laws also limit how much of a lot can be occupied by a structure.  If your view blocking structure violates these laws you may for removal of them.

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. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-09-2018 11:03 PM PDT

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