An interesting trial court decision was reported in the Daily Journal, a newspaper for attorneys. The article dealt with a the trial judge’s decision in a lawsuit between two owners in a Newport Beach gated zero lot line community regarding a purported landscaping encroachment. A zero lot line refers to a type of home where one boundary wall of the structure is built right on the property line (rather then there being a wall between the two homes with a setback).
One neighbor claimed that the other neighbor’s shrubbery that grew along a 2.5 foot wall on their shared property line was interfering with their view. They also sought a declaration from the court that their neighbor would be responsible for future damage to the drainage system that may be caused by their landscaping. The plaintiff owner requested $100,000 in damages and injunctive relief (and a court order requiring that the conditions be eliminated).
The trial went before a judge (without a jury) and the court ordered that both neighbors maintain the shrubbery under three (3) feet because there were view restrictions in the association’s CC&Rs. What really caught my attention was the judge’s decision that related to the privacy claims. We often receive claims by homeowners that their privacy has been invaded by something their neighbors are doing or are proposing to do. They will argue that the association cannot, for example, allow their neighbor to modify their home or their property because it will impact their privacy. In the reported case, the trial judge stated that “[t]he court noted that small backyards in zero lot line view communities such as this, in the court’s opinion, provide no reasonable expectations of privacy.”
What this case tells us is that it is important for associations to really consider whether the homeowner that is claiming the privacy right actually has that right to privacy.
This blog post was prepared by David Swedelson, Partner at SwedelsonGottlieb, Community Association Attorneys. Contact or send comments to David Swedelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.