My View is Blocked: What Can I Do?

A reader bought a lot 50 years ago with an unobstructed view. Then, trees grew.

Q: Fifty years ago, I purchased a lot in a community in Maryland. I paid a higher price for this lot due to its better view. Several years after buying the lot, I built my house on it.

My lot is adjacent to a marina that operates the marina and owns the land. The marina has gone through various owners and today’s owner has allowed the Leyland Cypress trees to grow 30 plus feet tall. These trees completely block the water view I used to have. My community association has attempted to contact the marina owner to have them trim the trees but the owner has refused. I am just a retiree who wants to spend my days looking at the beautiful view that I once had and paid for when I purchased the land. Selling my home is not an option. What can I do to get my water view back?

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A: Lots of things change over a 50-year period. Fifty years ago, when you bought your lot, you may have had one vision for it. Too bad you weren’t able to buy the land all the way to the water’s edge. That’s the only way you could have protected your view.

We’re sorry that your view is blocked. Worse, we don’t have good news for you. The general rule in real estate is that you get the land you purchased but nothing more. You typically can’t buy a view.

For example, you may live in a rural area with great views of mountains, but if those mountains are owned by a mining or logging company, you may end up having a very different view once the mining company mines the top of the mountains or the logging company cuts down the forest. If you live in an urban area and buy a condo with a great view of a skyline, your view may be blocked as other buildings rise around yours.

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So the key to your question: Are there documents between you or your association and the marina landowner relating to the view.

We could imagine a situation where a land developer would sell certain lots for the view. They may have incorporated specific protections in the condo declaration for those lot owners. These would protect against what the adjacent land owner might do with their property. For example, the land developer may create certain land restrictions that provide that the marina property would forever be used as a marina and for nothing else. In line with that, the marina property might be restricted in how they would be able to develop that land and the types of buildings they could build.

To find these types of restrictions, you’d have to research the land records to see what, if any, restrictions were put into place on the marina property that might give you the right to tell the owner to trim back the cyprus trees. The restrictions you’d hope to find would limit the marina owner from building any improvements on the property higher than a certain height and limiting the landscaping installed there to a certain height.

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Will you find a document that would prohibit the marina owner from planting trees on their property? Perhaps not. But there might be building and landscaping height restrictions. This may not apply to your cypress trees, by the way. But in some parts of the country invasive, fast growing trees may be prohibited. Local ordinances may also require landowners to remove certain types of trees or invasive growth species in favor of native landscaping.

We’re sorry your view has been blocked. Perhaps the next owner of the marina will be more amenable to your desire for an open view.

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