Spite fences are generally defined as unsightly structures erected solely to irritate neighbors. They are deemed a private nuisance and are erected for no other purpose than to annoy neighbors or occupants of adjoining properties.
However, a property owner cannot successfully sue a builder of a fence or structure just because they find the fence annoying. To maintain a successful action against the adjoining landowner, the fence or structure must have been made with the primary purpose of frustrating the neighbor. All other purposes of the fence must be incidental.
In order to maintain a successful complaint against a property owner who has erected a spite fence, the adjoining landowner must allege that the structure is entirely useless, without value to the property, and was built with the sole purpose of annoying him/her. Moreover, to have the fence removed the property owner would have to show many things including:
- The fence blocks light, air, or a view
- It reduces the value of his/her property
- The fence has no functional use
- The fence is unlike other fences in the area
- The fence owner has a malicious motive
The remedies available to property owners also depend on the law of the state where s/he resides. Generally, a property owner is entitled to an order of injunction to have the fence removed or compensatory damages. The court will consider many factors in determining the appropriate amount of compensation in cases relating to spite fence. These include factors like the diminished value of the aggrieved landowner’s property as well as the annoyance caused by the erection and maintenance of the fence.