Good Fences Make Bad Neighbors
Movies and sitcom episodes have been made about feuding neighbors. One way is so prevalent that it has entered the language of the law. While a landowner has the right to build a fence along her boundary line, that right is not absolute. The “spite fence” is one that is of no beneficial use to the owner and that is erected and maintained solely for the purpose of annoying a neighbor. The hard part of the claim is to prove the fence was put up maliciously. Courts have denied these claims where the walls and fences complained of screened a person’s property from objectionable noises, odors or “unseemly conduct.” However, if an owner can prove there was no legitimate purpose, a court can order the removal along with actual and even punitive damages. One recent case dealt with neighbors who owned property next to each other along the Pasquotank River. One owner erected a 10-foot wooden fence on the property line, obstructing the neighbor’s view of the river and restricting sunlight into her yard. Along a different boundary of the property that didn’t border the neighbor’s property, the owner had a smaller fence. There was also evidence that the owner was upset with the city council’s handling of his application to build condominiums on his property; the neighbor was on the city council. The neighbor was able to ask the jury for an order removing the fence, actual damages and punitive damages.
-Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC who practices in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Contract and Real Estate disputes, and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.