If You’re a California Property Owner, Do You Have a Right to a View?
Whether you live in a condo, townhome, house, or another dwelling, you’d probably enjoy having a scenic view. If someone obstructs the view you thought you bought by erecting another building or planting a tree, for example, you wonder what legal options you have to recover your vista.
Unfortunately, most property owners don’t enjoy an inherent “right to a view,” as there’s no such right under California law. That said, there are other laws that could offer you an option for legal action, and there are certain circumstances you may indeed have a right to your view. If you want to know more, keep reading.
When Property Owners Have a Right to a View
Though there is no California or federal law that protects property owners’ right to a view, there are certain situations when they might enjoy such a right. Some examples include:
- Easement agreements – Some property owners enter into an agreement with their neighbors to create an easement protecting their existing view. An easement is a legal agreement wherein a property owner allows someone else to use a portion of their property. These agreements must be drafted carefully. Poorly written easement agreements can be thrown out by state courts.
- Subdivision rules – While there’s no statewide law protecting property owners’ right to a view, some subdivisions require homeowners to abide by certain rules. These rules restrict owners from blocking their neighbors’ views, such as by limiting the height of fences and trees or preventing the addition of new structures on a property.
- Local view ordinances – Certain cities and counties have local laws that protect property owners’ right to a view. In California, this is not uncommon in areas by the ocean and other desirable locales. However, these view ordinances frequently include caveats that make them difficult to enforce, such as allowing native trees to grow without height restrictions, creating an exemption for trees on city property, or only allowing property owners to take legal action if an obstruction is within a certain distance of the property.
- Other local ordinances – Even in cases where a community has no view ordinance in place, there may be other local ordinances you can use to protect your view. Restrictions on tree heights or size could be helpful, as well as laws limiting fence heights or mandating a minimum distance between properties.
What To Do Before Buying a Property with a View
If you’re interested in buying a property with a scenic view, it’s worth investigating to find out your rights before completing the purchase. Ask the current property owner and the local planning office if there’s a view ordinance or other laws that might apply in place. It’s also worth asking your real estate agent if your neighbors are subject to restrictions that protect your view. Finally, see if there are any subdivision or housing association rules that might protect your right to a view.
What To Do If a Neighbor Is Blocking Your View
If you want to protect your view, it’s not a good idea to foster unnecessary acrimony when your neighbor does something to block it. Here are some approaches to keep neighborly relationships friendly:
- Figure out the least disruptive option. If you can have a civil conversation with your neighbor, they might agree to trim their tree or to take another action that resolves the issue.
- Determine how much it will cost to restore the view. Offering to pay for all or a portion of the necessary renovations can keep you on good terms with your neighbor.
- Identify whether whatever’s blocking your view also affects your neighbors. If so, forming a group with allied interests can strengthen your case.
- Talk to a California real estate lawyer. An experienced attorney can examine the applicable local laws and other regulations that might give you grounds for legal action.
If you’re having a dispute with your neighbors over a view, contact the California real estate attorneys with Winton Strauss Law Group, P.C. We have more than 60 years of combined experience, and we want to protect your right to make your home an ideal living space. To learn more about our services, contact our office for an initial consultation with one of our lawyers.