A property owner and his neighbor had a dispute over trees the neighbor planted along their common border which blocked the property owner’s view. The neighbor then retaliated by planting additional trees exceeding ten feet in height between the two properties, further obstructing the property owner’s view, and refused to trim them. The property owner made a demand on the neighbor for the money loss resulting from his decreased property value and loss of comfort and enjoyment of his property since the excessively tall row of trees violated the California “spite fence” statute as they exceeded ten feet and were planted maliciously. A California appeals court held the neighbor was not liable for the property’s owner’s money losses for his impaired view due to the boundary trees since the property owner failed to prove he suffered a monetary loss of comfort or enjoyment due to the trees, as required by the spite fence statute. [Vanderpol v. Starr (2011) 194 CA 4th 385]
Editor’s note – The spite fence statute requires a loss of comfort and enjoyment to the property, which the trial in this case did not evaluate. Instead, money losses were awarded solely for the decreased property value due to the property owner’s lost view. Thus, the case was returned so the court has the opportunity to actually evaluate these comfort and enjoyment losses and determine if a monetary loss of comfort and enjoyment existed.