Dealing With A Spite Fence Or Other Structure? Keep These Things In Mind

Did your neighbor build a fence or some other structure on his or her property simply to annoy you? Those "spite" fences or structures can be an eyesore, so can you sue to get them removed? This is what you should know.

1.) Spite structures are nothing new. People build fences and buildings all the time with the complete intention of annoying or frustrating neighbors they don't like. Sometimes the whole purpose of the fence is to block your previously-pleasant view of the surroundings. Other times, the structure is a passive-aggressive way of telling you exactly how someone feels about you (like one Michigan man did with a bronze statue he purposefully erected facing his ex-wife's window).

2.) You may have difficulty proving that something was built just out of spite. Spite fences and other structures are frequently prohibited by state or local laws. But, in order to win your case in court against someone who has one, you have to prove to the satisfaction of the court that the structure has no other purpose and was built solely to annoy you or otherwise cause you injury. If your neighbor maintains that he or she built the fence to keep out trespassers or put an ugly piece of art on the lawn because he or she likes it, you may lose in court.

3.) You may have better luck suing to enforce local zoning laws or homeowners association rules. Even in jurisdictions that don't have spite fence laws, there may be regulations restricting the height, shape, and placement of fences and other structures. In some areas, even the materials that a person uses (for example, chain link) may be subject to restriction. An attorney can help you look for any technical details that the spite fence or another structure is violating in order to sue for its removal.

4.) If you do mount a successful lawsuit, you may be able to collect compensatory damages for your trouble. The court will sometimes award the victim of a spite fence a certain amount of money for the devaluation of his or her property or the loss of its quiet enjoyment. In particularly outrageous cases, the judge may even award you attorney's fees. On the other hand, you need to be very sure that the fence or other structure really was built to spite you—otherwise, you could find yourself paying the other party's attorney fees for interfering with his or her rights of quiet enjoyment.

Disputes over property issues are seldom clear-cut or easy to settle. The best thing that you can do is contact an attorney to discuss the situation as soon as possible. A firm like Ponath Law Offices can offer more information.