Has your neighbor erected a spite fence to block your view?

Differences of opinion sometimes happen between next-door neighbors, but most are settled in a reasonable manner.

Unfortunately, you have a neighbor who has escalated a disagreement by building a “spite fence” on the property line between your homes. What should you do?

Boundary fences

Perhaps your disagreement was about building a fence between your homes. Your neighbor wanted one, but you did not, the reason being that a fence would partially block your view. The other issue concerned payment. Under Florida law, you have no obligation to make a monetary contribution to the building of a boundary fence unless you have signed an agreement to that effect. If such a fence already existed when you and your neighbor bought adjacent properties, the law would consider you joint owners of the fence. In that case, you would both have the responsibility of fence repair and maintenance.

The spite fence issue

Was there a legitimate reason for erecting the fence? Was your neighbor interested in preventing vandalism or keeping local high school kids from using his property as a shortcut between the school and their own homes? If not, it would appear that he built the fence in a spiteful move, possibly because you would not fall in with his plans nor chip in any money for the project.

A word about tree trimming

Neighbors can also have tree trimming issues. For example, perhaps your neighbor’s large, leafy tree has branches that extend over the property line above your land. Under Florida law, these are “encroaching branches.” As long as they are healthy, you have the right to trim them back as far as the property line. If the branches are dead, however, the responsibility falls to your neighbor. In fact, he could face liability if those dead branches fall and damage your property in any way.

Resolving the problem

Because the spite fence has gone up, it is unlikely your neighbor will take it down of his own accord or because you ask him to do so. Before the disagreement goes any further, seek legal guidance to learn what options there are for resolving this or any other property line issue, including the possibility of encroaching branches—which may further block your view.

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