October 26, 2016

Washington Court of Appeals Affirms Order to Trim Hedge Row and Restore View

A Mercer Island homeowner sued his downhill neighbors for specific performance of a covenant that requires landscaping to be maintained at a height no greater than the nearest roof peak.  His neighbors responded that a hedge row on their property could grow as tall as the roof peak of the plaintiff's home because it was the closest structure to that hedge row.  The trial court rejected that argument on summary judgment and ordered the downhill neighbors to trim the hedge row, concluding that the covenant pertains to the nearest roof peak on the same property as the vegetation.  The Court of Appeals recently affirmed that decision in an unpublished opinion.

The homeowner in this case sued in order to restore a view of Lake Washington that he was legally entitled to enjoy pursuant to a set of recorded covenants, and the value of that view is central to the Court's decision.  The Court notes that "it is common sense that a lakefront property is more desirable when it has a view of the lake."  It then points out that the covenants "call for landscaping to be maintained to protect the overall desirability of all of the properties in the subdivision" and that "it would be inconsistent with this provision to permit landscaping to grow so tall that it completely blocks the view from the uphill neighbor's outlook."

October 14, 2016

Court of Appeals Enforces Covenant Restricting Height of Trees and Hedges

The Washington Court of Appeals recently issued an unpublished opinion indicating that a row of trees violated a covenant restricting "hedges" to a height of six feet or less. The parties own property in a neighborhood on Whidbey Island that is built on a slope and that provides views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.  Trees on downhill property blocked uphill property views, causing the uphill property owners to file a lawsuit arguing that the trees constituted a hedge in violation of a restrictive covenant.  The trial court ordered the downhill property owners to cut certain trees to a height of six feet or less, and those owners appealed.

The Court of Appeals noted that one definition of "hedge" is "a boundary formed by a row of trees planted close together."  The Court decided that the row of trees constituted a "hedge" under the terms of the restrictive covenant and that it was therefore subject to the height restriction.  The Court emphasized that the scenic location and views are an important part of the value of the properties and that protecting views is in the homeowners' collective interest.