For years you've cherished the view from your window, porch
or balcony. For some its green rolling hills, for others the
rolling ocean, others love city views. You sit and gaze for hours
thinking 'Ah, the serenity'. Your home is your castle.
But then your neighbor decides to build another level to their
home – a level that would block your view. Or they plant
trees that slowly grow to cover your much loved view and block the
What rights do you have? Can you own your own view? Can you do
anything to stop the building of that extra floor that will block
your view? Can you have the trees trimmed or chopped down to
restore your view?
The short answer is that under laws regarding planning, you as
an individual can't own your own view. There are planning laws
that assist directly or indirectly to protect outlooks, but they
are aimed more at community wellbeing and heritage than individual
landholders such as regional height restrictions, 'green
space' requirements and regulations governing buildings being
set back from other buildings, roads, cliffs and so on.
But there is some protection from vegetation growing out of
control. Generally laws protect trees, the taller the more
protection. You do have the right to chop off branches that hang
over your side of the fence, but you'll have to prove a tree
poses a danger to get it taken down.
In recent years we've seen the growth of what are called
"spite hedges" – a quick growing thick row of
hedge along the boundary - typically Leighton Green Cyprus which
grow two metres a year and can reach 30 metres. Often they were put
up to spite neighbours who had objected to a development
application. There was little the law could do. There was no danger
and there are no planning height restrictions on trees.
But the Trees (Dispute Between Neighbours) Act now gives the NSW
Land and Environment Court the power to order a landowner to remove
or prune a hedge (not solo trees) higher than 2.5 metres if it
causes a severe loss of view or sunlight to a neighbour. It costs
just $212 to lodge a case, but it can become costly as some people
hire arborists, horticulturalists and even expert "visual
impact assessors" to argue the value of a view. The Act
insists people try mediation before court action, but its best to
go armed knowing your legal rights and how to best put your
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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