The Lawletter Vol 43 No 1
Alistair Edwards, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group
The general rule is that a landowner has no common law right to an unobstructed view over an adjoining property. Thus, if a neighbor erects a structure on his property that blocks another neighbor’s view from his property, this likely does not constitute an actionable nuisance or give the neighbor any other type of claim. Absent an express easement or covenant, this right to an unobstructed view generally does not exist. "In the absence of statute, generally, a landowner may, by building on his or her own land, deprive the adjoining owner of the light, air, and view of which the owner was the recipient before the structure was erected without inflicting a legal injury by such obstruction." 2 C.J.S. Adjoining Landowners § 28 (Westlaw database updated December 2017).
For example, in Ceynar v. Barth, 2017 ND 286, 904 N.W.2d 469, the North Dakota Supreme Court recently considered a nuisance action brought by a homeowner against his neighbor (and the homeowner’s association) after the neighbor constructed a pool house on his property which obstructed the neighbor’s view. The pool house blocked the homeowner’s view of a golf course and very likely reduced the market value of the home. In affirming the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant neighbor, the court relied mainly on California precedent and stated that "[j]ust as traditional American property law fails to protect access to light over neighboring land, in the absence of an express easement or covenant, advantageous views are unprotected." Id. ¶ 26, 904 N.W.2d at 476. The court further explained: "Because the Ceynars [plaintiffs] have no cognizable right to an unobstructed view from their property, Barth's [defendant] construction of the pool house as a matter of law did not unreasonably interfere with the Ceynars' use and enjoyment of their property." Id. ¶ 28, 904 N.W.2d at 478; see also Wolford v. Thomas, 190 Cal. App. 3d 347, 356, 235 Cal. Rptr. 422, 427 (1987) ("[A] building or structure does not constitute a nuisance merely because it obstructs the passage of light and air to the adjoining property or obstructs the view from the neighboring property, provided such building or structure does not otherwise constitute a nuisance.").