Spite Fence
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Spite Fence
A spite wall in Lancashire, England, built in 1880 by the owner of the land on the left, in reaction to the unwanted construction of the house on the right[1]

Spite fence is a term used in U.S. property law to refer to an overly tall fence, structure in the nature of a fence, or a row of trees, bushes, or hedges, constructed or planted between adjacent lots by a property owner (with no legitimate purpose), who is annoyed with or wishes to annoy a neighbor, or who wishes to completely obstruct the view between lots. Several U.S. states and local governments have regulations to prohibit spite fences, or related regulations such as those establishing a maximum allowed height for fences. In the United Kingdom, the terms spite wall or blinder wall (as in, to blind the view of a neighbour) are more commonly used.

An overly tall fence may not be considered a spite fence by a court if there is some other reason for the fence which requires the extra height. In one case, a man built a 13-foot (4.0 m) fence on his property, and his neighbor sued him. The man had put up a fence that tall because his neighbor kept throwing garbage over the old (shorter) fence. Since keeping garbage out of one's yard is a legitimate reason to have a fence, it was found not to be a spite fence.[]

Several states in the United States have laws that prohibit planting a row of trees parallel to a property line, which exceed six to ten feet (1.8 to 3.0 m) in height, which block a neighbor's view or sunlight. The courts have ruled that a row of trees can be considered a "fence".

Golf courses near residential communities will often have fences exceeding 20 ft (6.1 m) in height in order to prevent struck balls from flying out of the course and into the windshields of cars and windows of houses near the course. Such fences are not spite fences, and may actually be required. Outdoor arenas and amphitheatres also often use fences or other obstructions to prevent the viewing of their events by those who don't have tickets (which, although it may be unpopular with those whose free viewing is obstructed, is not necessarily spiteful).

In civil-law countries, erecting a spite wall (or a spite house) is unequivocally prohibited because of the doctrine of abuse of rights: a right ends where abuse begins. This is mostly attributable to the fact that modern building regulations often prevent any construction likely to impinge on neighbours' views or privacy.[]

Examples

California

In the California case of Wilson v. Handley, 97 Cal. App. 4th 1301 (2002), Wilson built a second story onto her log cabin. Her neighbor, Handley, did not like this addition, and retaliated by planting a row of evergreen trees, parallel to the property line, that would grow some day to purposely block Wilson's view of Mt. Shasta. Wilson sued Handley for blocking her view. The California Court of Appeals ruled that trees planted parallel to a property line, to purposely block a neighbors' view, constitutes a spite fence and a private nuisance, and is illegal under California Civil Code (Section 841.4). The court further noted that bushes or hedges exceeding six feet (1.8 m) in height in California (six to ten feet (1.8 to 3.0 m) in other states) that block a neighbor's view are also a "spite fence" and a private nuisance.

Portion of the April 1878 panoramic photograph of San Francisco by Eadweard Muybridge showing the spite fence constructed by Charles Crocker

Charles Crocker, a railroad investor and owner of a house on Nob Hill in San Francisco, built a high fence around his neighbor's house, spoiling his view, after the neighbor held out for many times the market value of the property. (Crocker had wanted to buy the whole block.) The neighbor was a German undertaker called Nicolas Yung; Crocker was unsuccessful in purchasing the house until Yung had died. The height of the fence meant supporting buttresses had to be used.[2] The work features in the April 1878 panoramic photo of San Francisco by Eadweard Muybridge.[3]

Ireland

Pennsylvania

In the 1930s, an outfield fence on Shibe Park baseball stadium in Philadelphia was raised to 34 feet in order to block a view of the field from the rooftops of a neighboring street, which had become a popular site for spectators.[4] The structure became known as "Connie Mack's Spite Fence" after the home team's manager,[5] and reduced the goodwill the team had had with its neighbors.[5]

Utah

In 2008 a farmer in Hooper, Utah, placed three old cars upright in the ground, after a dispute with his neighbors, who objected to the flies, mosquitoes and dust from his farm yet also rejected his proposal to build a fence between their property and his farm. The farmer described the construction as 'Redneck Stonehenge'.[6]

United Kingdom

  • The Manor House, Leg Square, Shepton Mallet, Somerset[7]
  • 22 Gloucester Road, Thornbury, Bristol[8]
  • Stankelt Road, Silverdale, Lancashire[1]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Cockayne, Emily (2012). Cheek by Jowl: A History of Neighbours. Random House. p. 111. ISBN 9781409027737.
  2. ^ "The Spite Fence". Panorama of San Francisco. The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved .
  3. ^ "Archive - City Views of San Francisco". Retrieved . The spite fence appears near the Charles Crocker Mansion and the Gen. David Colton/Collis Huntington Mansion on California Street. It looks much like a building in its own right. (There are two panoramic photos on this page. The second photo contains arrows pointing to streets and other features, including one arrow that points to the spite fence. You have to scroll to the right to see the entire photo. In the first photo, the one without arrows, the spite fence is about one-eighth the way into the photo from the left edge. In the second photo, the one with arrows, the spite fence is about three-quarters the way in.)
  4. ^ Westcott, Rich (2012). Shibe Park-Connie Mack Stadium. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-7653-4. Retrieved 2017-04-26.
  5. ^ a b Kuklick, Bruce (1991). To Every Thing A Season: Shibe Park and Urban Philadelphia. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-04788-X.
  6. ^ "Farmer sends message to neighbors with car fence". Fox News. 2008-08-05. Archived from the original on 2008-08-06.
  7. ^ "Shepton Mallet: Leg Square (C) Martin Bodman :: Geograph Britain and Ireland". Geograph.org.uk. Retrieved .
  8. ^ "22 Gloucester Road - spite wall". Thornburyroots.co.uk. Retrieved .

Further reading


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