FENCES, WALLS & VIEWS — 2017

FENCES, WALLS AND VIEWS

View Rights Don’t Exist in California.

You just purchased a hillside home with a view. Your neighbor constructs a new 2 story home and plants a row of trees which destroys your view. It may surprise you to learn that there is probably nothing you can do about it.

You do not have a right to a view in California. Courts have rejected almost every effort by neighbors to classify an interference with a view as a “nuisance.” However, there are some exceptions and they are as follows.

Option #1: In some communities, CC&R’s contain provisions protecting a view. CC&R’s in many hillside communities: (1) prevent a homeowner from engaging in construction, or (2) landscaping that blocks your view.

Option #2: In other communities, the Grant Deeds contain restrictions that prevent the homeowners from using their property in any way that interferes with a neighbor’s view. For example, a Grant Deed may prevent a home owner from building two-stories or from planting certain trees on the property.

Option #3: Although less common, there are some cities that have implemented rules that either directly or indirectly protect view rights. For example, some zoning rules prohibit owners from building 2 story homes in hillside communities. Other municipal rules have strict guidelines for planting and maintaining trees, which indirectly protect your view.

Absent protective language in either the CC&R’s, Grant Deed or municipal rules, you have no right to a view. Consider the court’s decision in Wolford v. Thomas (1987) 190 Cal.App.3d 347.

In that case, Wolford owned a view home on Russian Hill in San Francisco with a fantastic view of the San Francisco bay. Thomas purchased the lot next door to Wolford and built a three-story penthouse condominium that destroyed Wolford’s bay view. Wolford sued Thomas for damages. The court dismissed Wolford’s complaint and stated in its decision “California law does not protect views.”

This means that if you purchase a property with a view, you need to understand that you probably have no right to protect that view from future development.

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