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Right to a View?

Does a property owner have a "right to a view"? To what extent? What limitations, if any, does any such right have? Where does such a right, if any, stem from?

When buying a home, or a piece of property for which to build a home, the view – that is, what one sees when looking out the window - is often touted as one of the big selling points. This often, if not always, has a direct effect on the price of the property.

As such, properties with an appealing view typically sell for much higher amounts than properties without a view, or properties with an unappealing view. However, although buyers pay more for a view, this high value aspect is not part of what is being purchased.

There is no provision in either Federal or California state law protecting “the view” of a property. This has been reinforced by California case law which holds landowners have no right to an unobstructed view over adjoining property (see Posey v. Leavitt, 229 Cal.App.3d 1236; Venuto v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 22 Cal.App.3d 116).

“As a general rule, a landowner has no natural right to air, light or an unobstructed view and the law is reluctant to imply such a right. Such a right may be created by private parties through the granting of an easement or through the adoption of conditions, covenants and restrictions ... or by the Legislature.” Pacifica Homeowners' Assn. v. Wesley Palms Retirement Community, supra, 178 Cal.App.3d 1147 1152, 224 Cal.Rptr. 380.

Although the state and federal government will not uphold the right to “a view”, there may be protections available to property owners under local law, or under provisions in their property deeds, including in the covenants and governing documents for developments and homeowners associations.

Some cities have adopted ordinances to provide protection of views for property owners. An example of this can be found in Newport Beach Municipal Code 20.30.100 - Public View Protection. These protections are often codified in the local laws of cities that have ocean views.

Those ordinances, however, often only apply to the construction of an obstacle (such as a deck or a tall fence) blocking a neighboring property’s view, and do not apply to natural obstacles (such as tall trees).

A more direct legal protection can be found in an “easement” between neighboring properties. An easement creates an enforceable agreement by and between owners of neighboring properties, protecting “the view” regardless of any local ordinances. This agreement functions as an enforceable contract by and against any current or future owner of any of the neighboring properties. If such an easement does not already exist, such an easement can be created by purchasing the right of easement from the owners of neighboring properties

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