Many people buy homes primarily for the view, whether it's a stark urban skyline, a tree-studded valley, or a secluded coastal bluff. And quite often, similar houses in the same neighborhood will have drastically different values based solely on their respective views. So it's important to understand what a homeowner can and cannot do to preserve the integrity of their view.
This article centers on view restrictions and how covenants may prevent views from being restricted. See FindLaw's Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions section for related articles and resources.
Covenants addressing views are often found in both CC&Rs and (less commonly) local zoning laws. Homeowners pay top dollar for property "with a view," and the privilege of gazing at an appealing scene from the comfort and privacy of one's own home is a highly prized commodity. This, in turn, manifests in enhanced dollar value of the real estate.
However, there is no natural or common law right to light, fresh air, or a view. (There are exceptions for the deliberate and malicious blocking of another's view with a structure that has no reasonable use or benefit to the one who constructed it.)
Such a right must therefore be granted in writing by a special law or CC&Rs. Generally speaking, the view that becomes protected by a CC&Rs is the view that existed at the time that the property was purchased (taking into account any pending impairments to view in existence at that time, such as the construction of additional homes in the area).
There are three common view obstructions that become the subject of CC&Rs:
- Trees, and
- Freestanding outbuildings/sheds.
Since each of these is normally associated with a homeowner's right to use and enjoy his property, CC&Rs seldom prohibit these improvements, but rather try to restrict them.