What's a spite fence?

A good fence can protect your property from intruders, safely corral your dogs or kids in your yard and serve as a marker for the boundary between your property and another's. Bad fences, on the other hand, can be an eyesore and a detriment like no other.

We're talking about spite fences. Spite fences are designed to be inconvenient eyesores. Their owners erect them with every intention of disrupting their neighbor's peace and enjoyment of their own property. In some cases, fences are erected just to spoil someone's view (and, maybe, lower their property's value in the process).

Of course, fences aren't the only type of structure that gets built to purposefully annoy someone's neighbors. There are several architectural oddities that have arisen over the years, many driven by inheritance disputes, divorces and neighborhood quarrels. While some of these buildings have gained a sort of curious notoriety over the years, that doesn't mean that you want to deal with a spite building or spite fence yourself.

So, what can you do if your neighbor takes a notion to erect a structure, fence or otherwise, that blocks your light, destroys your view, damages your property's value and ruins your enjoyment of your property? You can take the issue to court.

Under New York laws, any structure or fence that's greater than 10 feet tall can be considered a private nuisance if it was designed to bother you. In addition, there are numerous local regulations that also control things like how tall a fence can be, how far it must be from the end of the property and even what kinds of materials can be used to make it.

Real estate disputes with your neighbors can get very complicated. If you need help resolving one, find out more about your legal options.