Can Your Neighbor Lawfully Block Your View? An Insight into Lowering the Blinds on the Issue

Paul West/ Backyard Maintenance

Ever looked out your window to enjoy a scenic view, only to find it blocked by your neighbor’s new construction? It’s a common issue that often leads to the big question – can your neighbor legally block your view?

When you buy a property, you’re not just investing in the four walls and roof – you’re also buying into the surroundings. A beautiful view can significantly enhance your property’s value and your enjoyment of it. But what happens when that view is compromised?

This article will investigate into the complexities of property rights, local ordinances, and the legalities surrounding blocked views. We’ll help you understand your rights and what you can do if your view is being obstructed. So, let’s dive right in and clear up any confusion you might have about this common neighborhood dilemma.

Understanding property rights and views

This situation might have you wondering about the rights of property owners. Many assume that they’ve got the right to an unobstructed view when they purchase a property. That’s not always the case.

To get a clear idea of how property rights and views work together, let’s start by understanding real estate law in the United States. This law considers air rights—the owned space above a property—and surface rights—the owned land itself. But, view rights are generally not included in these property rights unless explicitly stated in the property deed or a local ordinance.

Also, local laws and ordinances play a pivotal role in property rights surrounding obstructed views. Detailed regulations about building heights, boundaries, and new constructions exist in municipalities that seek to protect valued views. These regulations differ from one location to another, emphasizing the importance of familiarizing yourself with the local ordinances in your area.

These zoning laws are closely tied to the “Right to Light” principle, an old English law. While not universally accepted in the U.S., some states have adopted regulations resembling this law. In essence, it stipulates that a property owner has the right to receive sunlight through the windows of their house without obstruction.

Unfortunately, protecting these rights might require enlisting the help of a lawyer. Legal recourse is available, but it can be time-consuming and expensive.

Keep in mind—are you ready for the potential outcome? It’s essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of taking such actions.

To summarize these points:

  1. Every property owner owns air rights and surface rights.
  2. Local laws and ordinances play a substantial role in determining view rights.
  3. Legal measures are available but can be costly and time-consuming.

Your understanding of property rights and views amalgamates the interconnected nature of real estate law, local regulations, and personal choices. As a property owner, being proactive and well-informed in these aspects will equip you better in case of an unfortunate incident of obstructed views.

Legal considerations when a view is obstructed

Air rights. Surface rights. View rights. You’re swimming in legalese, worrying about your investment, your home, and your view. But let’s cut to the chase, you have to understand these rights when it comes to your property.

First up in the line is air rights. Sounds fancy isn’t it? But it’s pretty simple. Air rights are the rights to control, occupy, or use the vertical space (the air) above your property. It’s often that these unseeable boundaries are ignored until a towering structure begins to rise next door.

As for the surface rights, these are related to the right to physically occupy and use the surface of the land that you’ve bought with your hard-earned money. This typically involves objects such as buildings, landscaping, and other features attached to the land. And yes, even the trees that might one day block your view.

Let’s get a little closer to our main topic – view rights. Here comes the kicker. You might assume when you purchase a property with a splendid view, that view is yours to enjoy forever. But, it isn’t always the case. Not all jurisdictions recognize a property owner’s right to a view. That’s a fact, not a myth.

This could leave you wondering about the Right to Light principle that exists in some parts of the world. This right is entrenched in some countries as a person’s right to receive sufficient light through windows or openings within their property. Though it sounds pleasing, it’s not global law – and it’s not cheap. Enforcing this right could come at a high cost, potentially dragging you into legal battles.

Needless to say, local regulations play a vital role in this whole scenario. Regulations on building heights, boundaries, and licenses come into play when disputing a blocked view. You may not be able to prevent that skyscraper from overshadowing your property, but local ordinances might cushion some of the impact.

But, don’t lose heart. Armed with the right information and legal backing, dealing with these situations becomes a task you can tackle head-on. That being said, never underestimate the importance of a good lawyer. Feel free to jump into more legal jargon. Read about easements, covenants, and quite possibly, get a headache. But remember, knowledge is power.

Local ordinances and their role in protecting views

Local laws or ordinances play a crucial role in regulating and preserving views. They act as a tool for ensuring that the aesthetics and quality of life in a particular area are not compromised. When you feel your view rights are being threatened, these local regulations can often come to your rescue.

Zoning codes and building restrictions form the bedrock of these local laws. Zoning codes are city or county laws that dictate how real estate can be used in certain geographic areas. They’re implemented to maintain order and to balance the interests of property owners with the interests of the community at large. Think of these regulations as a traffic light for property development: they control when, where, and how much development can occur.

Typically, there are height restrictions in these zoning codes, limiting how tall buildings can be in certain sectors. Picture this: you’re living in a picturesque neighborhood with ample sunlight and an unobstructed view of the skyline. Suddenly, your new neighbor decides to add another level to his house and your perfect skyline view is obstructed. With local height restrictions in place, this nightmare scenario could be prevented.

But, zoning isn’t limited to height restrictions alone. Other components, like setback requirements and floor-area ratios, also play a part in managing the world of a locality, impacting the views in the process.

For example, setback regulations mandate the distance a building must be from the property line. This can help preserve sightlines and reduce the chance of one’s view being impeded by neighboring construction. On the other hand, the floor area ratio (FAR) defines the total amount of floor space that a building can have relative to the size of the land it’s built on, affecting the potential bulkiness of a structure.

Parsing the nuances of local ordinances may seem daunting, but you’d be surprised what you could learn with a bit of research or, better yet, a quick chat with your local council or planning office. It may not guarantee the eternal preservation of your view, but it can go a long way towards reducing the risk of future obstructions.

Resolving view obstruction with your neighbor

Exploring property rights to safeguard your precious neighborhood view might seem daunting. Remember, not all obstructions are intended. Your neighbor might be unaware of the local zoning codes or the impact their new structure might have on your view. Enforcing your rights doesn’t have to lead to hostility with your immediate neighbor. Creating an open dialogue may quickly resolve this issue with respect and understanding for all parties involved.

Engage in Open Dialogue

Start by engaging in a friendly, open conversation with your neighbor. Let’s be clear—direct confrontation isn’t your best foot forward. Express your concerns calmly and constructively. Let them know about the view obstruction and inform them in a non-confrontational manner how it’s affecting you. You might even suggest some alternative options they can consider, such as repositioning their structure or choosing a different style that doesn’t obstruct your view.

Your neighbor may not be aware of the local zoning codes or the aesthetic value their property is leeching from yours. Spreading awareness can be beneficial; present the zoning codes that outline restrictions on building height, type, or structure orientation that might apply to your neighbor’s property.

Seeking Mediation

If the friendly talk doesn’t usher in resolution, consider seeking mediation. A trained mediator can effectively manage the conversation between you and your neighbor, sticking to the facts without letting emotions run high. There are community organizations that provide this for free or a minimal fee.

Legal Recourse

Let’s keep this as our last resort. If your neighbor isn’t cooperative, you might consider legal action. But, this road might be costly and time-consuming. Research about view ordinances in your area. Consult with a local attorney experienced in property rights and views preservation.

This section should give you a general idea of how to approach a situation where your view is being obstructed by your neighbor. But, every situation is unique, so consider these steps as a guide and remember to stay polite and open to discussion throughout the process.

Steps to take if your view is unlawfully blocked

While it’s frustrating to have your once sweeping view suddenly obstructed, there are specific steps you can take to reclaim it.

The first critical step considers whether your neighbor’s action is indeed unlawful. Wrap your arms around local zoning laws and view ordinances, which clearly spell out permissible actions within your neighborhood. They specifically address issues like building heights, tree heights and even fence heights.

Learn the Local Laws

Start by seeking necessary information about your city’s zoning laws. Most cities publish this online, so all you’d need is an internet connection and a bit of time. Grasping these laws ensure you’re equipped with vital knowledge as you tackle the problem.

Gather Evidence

Next, gather as much evidence as possible. This could include photographs of the obstruction before and after, any marketing material stating “unobstructed views” or communication records discussing the view blockage with your neighbor.

Get Legal Advice

Last but not least, if your rights are being violated, it may be time to secure legal counsel. Involving a lawyer can add significant credibility to your claims, acting as a strong advocate for your case. They’ll decipher the legalese within the local code and help determine whether you have a legitimate claim.

Remember, while each conflict may be unique, they ought not to dissolve into personal attacks. Keep such discussions on a business-level, rather than making it personal.

Overall, having solid knowledge about your legal rights and possessing evidence clearly showing your view’s obstruction can pave the way for a swift resolution.


So, you’ve learned what to do if your neighbor’s activities block your view. It’s crucial to understand your local zoning laws and view ordinances. Armed with this knowledge, you can determine if your rights are being infringed upon. Don’t forget to gather evidence like photographs and maintain records of your communications. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice. Remember, it’s all about keeping the dialogue professional and focused. You’re now equipped with the tools to address this issue effectively. With your newfound knowledge and evidence at hand, you’re ready to reclaim your view.


Paul West
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About Paul West

Longstanding and passionate about really having family fun in the backyard. I'm no expert but I've picked up a thing or two along the way!