Right to View
Does a property owner have a right to his or her view? A landowner has no absolute right to view over adjoining property. Any right a property owner may have to a view is rooted in local zoning ordinances or agreements, such as HOAs.
While there was such a right under old English common law, this does not exist in California as a general rule. There are certain exceptions to this, especially in the tony coastal areas of Southern California where the cost of an ocean view property can be many times that of an inland property.
Some local zoning laws require that construction may not deprive an adjoining landowner adequate air, light, and view. This provides such right without need to examine any covenants in the Deed. However, it could leave open debate as to what exactly would be considered adequate.
Some examples in Orange County include but are not limited to:
1) In the City of Orange Zoning code 17.14.120 provides a minimum distance between structures for adequate light, air, and privacy.
2) In the City of Irvine, Section 9-22-7(D)(3)(b)(6), private views from residential areas to natural features are to be maintained where feasible.
Agreements such as Restrictive Covenants or Easements create rights that would otherwise not exist. An Easement would be created by agreement with a current or previous owner and part of the public record creating a use right in property by another. A Restrictive Covenant in an agreement included in a Deed which runs with the land placing limitations on what could be done on the land. These are almost always reciprocal so that the restrictions apply to each adjoining property.
Some Homeowner’s Associations can also include restrictions in their Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) prohibiting the construction of anything to obstruct another’s view. Through these CC&Rs, the view is preserved with an enforceable right for all within the Homeowner’s Association against any other member of the Homeowner’s Association. Interestingly, in tony Newport Beach, there are several HOA’s that protect views, but do NOT protect the right to privacy.
Absent one of these, short other legal limitations and restrictions such as general height restrictions, a landowner may do pretty much as he or she wishes with the property, with one exception: If construction is done for the sole purpose of obstructing the view of an adjacent property. If it can be shown that construction was done for this purpose, the court will generally not permit such construction to remain and has even ordered homes constructed for this purpose to be torn down.
Brewer, Offord & Pedersen LLP, Where Did My View Go? Homeowners’ Rights to Easements for Air, Light, and Views
City of Orange Municipal Code, Chapter 17.14 – Residential Districts
Orange County Real Estate Attorneys, Adjoining Landowner Disputes, Disputes Between Adjacent Orange County Property Owners
City of Irvine Zoning Chapter 9-22 – Planning Area 22 (Shady Canyon)