What is a spite fence?

On Behalf of | Aug 18, 2021 | Real Estate Disputes

Ideally, two property owners who share a boundary line will learn to get along and at least be civil to one another, even if they are not friends. These could be two commercial property owners with stores along the same road, two homeowners in a subdivision and so on.

Unfortunately, this type of civility is not always a given. Two people who have to spend so much time in close proximity may run into all sorts of conflict. This can result in spiteful action being taken by one property owner simply as a way to escalate these conflicts. 

Blocking the sun

A spite fence, though now often illegal, is a fence constructed on one person’s property in a way that is meant to negatively impact the other person’s property. The legality, at the time, came from the fact that the fence was on the right side of the property line. 

One of the most famous instances happened when a man would not sell his land to someone who was buying up all of the surrounding property. Once the richer man owned all of the land on three sides, he built a fence that was taller than the house and virtually surrounded it. This blocked the view and the sun from the affected property, effectively ruining the property without ever actually encroaching on it. 

Things like this are no longer allowed, but they help to underscore the lengths people may go to during a real estate dispute. This is why it’s important for all property owners to know exactly what legal rights they have and what steps they can take if someone else violates those rights.