An owner of a property may not erect a structure for the sole purpose of annoying his or her neighbor to structures which serve no useful purpose. However, if the fence, although erected from a malicious motive, serves any useful purpose, the complaining neighbor does not have any relief against its erection or maintenance. Where a fence or other structure which was built partly because of malice or spite serves a useful purpose, it is not actionable and cannot be abated.
Privacy is an insufficient justification for a neighbor’s erection of trees near a property line that blocked a neighboring homeowner’s view of the ocean, because of the turbulent history between the parties, the provocative statements made by defendant, the notice of trespass letter sent to plaintiff, and the size, timing, and placement of the trees.[i] The defendant needed to provide more than just privacy as justification for fence.
[i] Dowdell v. Bloomquist, 847 A.2d 827, 831 (R.I. 2004)