When choosing a place to live, home buyers may consider many different factors including the ability to view the surrounding landscape from their place of residence. This is particularly true if the home is located in an area with many scenic views such as views of the ocean, mountains or any other significant location.
Also, the value of a particular home may often depend to a great degree on the views of the surrounding landscape. In this context, there can be some difficulties if your neighbor has built something in their property such as a fence which interferes with your ability to view your surroundings. Depending on where you live, you may have different legal options.
What are Easements?
One of the options is to purchase an easement from your neighbor. An easement is a written contract which gives you a non-possessory interest in another individual’s land. If you hold an easement, you do not possess the land mentioned in the contract but you have the right to use this part of the property for a particular purpose.
You can use an easement to protect your view of the surroundings and in this case, the easement would legally prevent the owner of the property from doing anything which would significantly alter the view from your home.
As long as there is no unreasonable burden on the property owner, the holder of the easement can use it in a reasonably convenient and necessary way to enjoy their rights in their property. Drafting an easement can be confusing so it is important to consider contacting a land use and zoning attorney for assistance.
What are View Ordinances?
Cities and towns which are located in areas with exceptional views often have laws called view ordinances. But view ordinances often do not include obstructions other than trees. If the property owner has lost their view due to an overgrown tree, these ordinances would allow them to sue the tree owner.
However, it is best to contact the tree owner first and come to other solutions and file a lawsuit only as a last resort. Also, because many courts are backlogged and any decision could be appealed, it can take a long time to enforce a view ordinance.
Also, there could be other types of ordinances or homeowners’ association rules which may be more relevant to your situation. These types of ordinances and rules may deal with issues such as fence heights, the type of trees which may be grown as well as the location of the buildings.
What are Spite Fences?
When a neighbor has built something on their property to deliberately and maliciously block your view, these deliberate obstructions are often referred to as “spite fences”.
Proving malicious intent is often quite difficult. In this case, you would need to show that the structure has no other legitimate purpose other than to block your view.
Typically, if you reach a point where your neighbor purposefully constructs a spite fence, it means you and your neighbor have a poor relationship. First, try asking your neighbor, politely, if they need their fence to be this high. Let them know how it impacts you, and ask them if it’s possible to bring it down.
If your neighbor refuses or answers in a hostile manner, then it is likely that they have no valid reason. A higher fence is typically used to keep in a pet that might escape over a shorter fence, or for extra security. However, if the neighbor doesn’t have either of those issues and refuses to listen to your request, the first step should be to ask them to join you in mediation.
The courts do not like it when neighbors enter lengthy legal battles over issues like a blocked view or a fence. If you offer to go to mediation or take steps to remedy the issue before filing a lawsuit, the court will more likely side with you if you do need to file suit.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
If you have disputes with your neighbor regarding the views from your house, it is important to consult a real estate attorney near you. An experienced attorney can inform you about the local rules and ordinances which govern this issue and can also help you reach other types of solutions with your neighbor.