Select Page

What happens when someone builds an odious structure out of spite for a neighbor? Depending on the local municipal codes, both neighbors probably have significant freedom to build whatever they want on their own property. The reason for building the structure is not relevant, at least not in Texas. 

However, fences, trees and other border features are common issues in real estate law, and there is a variety of case law and statute that might apply to any given situation. When conflict arises after one neighbor builds something to annoy or otherwise take action against another, the specific term for this type of dispute is a “spite fence” case. 

As explained on FindLaw, state law does not prohibit Texans from building spite fences because the motivation for constructing the fence is not legally relevant. People may also build structures that block their neighbors’ air, light or view. 

There is one caveat. One may have to consider whether Texas law might consider the structure as a nuisance. This could be a concern if the dispute becomes more formal, especially if it reaches the litigation stage. 

More often than determining a nuisance in court, parties to the conflict would look to their municipality or property owners’ association for rules on this subject. For example, the City of Plano Building Inspections Department sets the maximum height of a residential fence at eight feet. Front-yard fences have additional restrictions. The city would probably not tolerate projects exceeding the allowed height, especially if there was a conflict between neighbors involved. 

Not every spite fence is literally a fence. Plants, equipment and outbuildings may also have a deleterious effect on views, light and air. Regardless of the form of the spite fence, revealing any recourse in these types of disputes would require an in-depth analysis of both state and municipal regulations and laws.