Views And Neighbors
Views And Neighbors
Howard Gould (Neighbor Law Expert, Finestone & Richter) gives expert video advice on: I am looking for a home with a view. How do I protect that view once I buy the home?; Can I force my neighbor to cut down a tree that is blocking my view? and more...
Do I have a right to my view?
Views, in general, are not protected in the law. The only cases in which a view is protected is if there is a Municipal View Ordinance, some law that's been passed to protect views, or you live in some kind of planned community that has rules or regulations that will protect your view. In some communities, there is a declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions that has been recorded that protects view rights, or there's some community organization that can control those issues, possibly an architectural committee. Sometimes a builder, even though they haven't created a homeowner's organization, will still put view restrictions in the deeds that they record. Because, for example, they're building on a hillside and as they go up the hillside, each house will have a view as long as their neighbor doesn't build a second story. Sometimes builders, even in projects built thirty or forty or fifty years ago may have put restrictions in the deeds to protect those views. The other situation where sometimes people have protected views is where one owner owned one lot and he divided it into two or three additional lots. That owner may have taken some action, again, to put in deed restrictions to protect the views. But in the absence of a municipal view ordinance or some kind of condition that's been put into a deed or some other document that's been recorded, you're not going to be able to protect your view.
If my neighbor agrees to sell me view rights, am I protected from future owners blocking my view?
When you make the agreement with the neighbor, in order to protect yourself both with respect to that neighbor and also any future owners of that property, you're going to need to have some agreement prepared. That agreement needs to be recorded, and recorded in a proper fashion. Once that's done, that will give what's called constructive notice to any future owner of that property: that should protect your rights. In order to be very careful about it, it's best to contact your title company and when you record this view protection, ask that you get title insurance coverage for that document that's being recorded.
Can I force my neighbor to cut down a tree that is blocking my view?
In general, you can't force a neighbor to do anything to assist you with getting a better view unless there's a municipal view ordinance, or there is some sort of covenant that's been recorded in the deeds for the neighbor's property, or some other document that's been recorded that restricts his rights. One other thing you can look at, which is probably not going to affect trees but can definitely affect fences and hedges, is whether there's some municipal ordinance that limits heights. It's very common, in fact you're going to find it pretty much everywhere, a municipal ordinance that restricts the height of boundary line hedges and also fences. Usually you're going to see a six foot height restriction for backyards and sideyards. In front yards it's often only three or four feet, but you may not find any municipal law similar to that that really affects the maximum allowed height of a tree.
If I'm not protected by a view ordinance, what can I do to protect my view?
If you are not protected by a view ordinance, the first thing you want to do is document the existing situation. Take some photographs. Make a video tape so that you have documentation as to what your existing view is. Then you're going to need to check to see what legal rights you have to prevent the conduct that's about to block your view. Is there a municipal ordinance regarding view that's going to help you? Is there some covenant in a deed or some other document recorded that limits your neighbor's rights to do whatever it is that they're about to do that will assist you? Is there some other city law, maybe a law that relates to fences or hedge heights for example that will give you assistance? Because unless you find some legal basis, there is no general concept that you have a right to protect your view and limit what your neighbor does with his property.