HOAs and Clotheslines

Adapted from an article by Jon Howland published 

clothesline-in-burano

Summertime means the weather warms up and homeowners will put their laundry out on a clothesline to dry.  Homeowners living in HOAs, condos or other common interest communities may be violating community rules by hanging their wardrobe up outside.

Nationwide, more than a quarter million homeowner associations govern upwards of 60 million people. Alexander Lee, a champion of the “right-to-dry” movement, estimates that “more than half of them (HOAs) restrict or ban the clothesline.”

A “right-to-dry” movement has sprung up and won laws in six states––Florida, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, and Vermont—to render bans on clotheslines void and unenforceable. In another 13 states, solar access laws already on the books appear to protect solar drying.

Clotheslines appear to fit under the umbrella of states’ solar rights because systems for hang-drying rely on the sun’s radiation to evaporate water in wet laundry. Clotheslines rely on solar energy, so their use is protected where laws provide blanket allowances for use of solar.

Solar access laws in Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin all delineate a homeowner’s right to install a “solar energy system,” “solar energy device,” “solar collector,” “system for obtaining solar energy” or “solar energy collection device.” The legal terminology varies, but the letter and spirit of these laws has one overarching message: homeowners may utilize the power of the sun

Yet in all of these 19 states, illegal bans persist in community rulebooks, such as HOA Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs), and a number that likely runs into the millions of residents do not know they already have a right to dry. Solar access laws, many of them from the 1970s, and obscure amendments to state property law may not be well known.

Do you know your state law? Does your community have a policy on clotheslines?

2 thoughts on “HOAs and Clotheslines

  1. Unfortunately, I think this article is jumping to some legal conclusions. California has a clothesline law that is very clear, and it allows those clotheslines to be in the backyard. Furthermore, the work around of “solar system” does not make sense – as you can see here, for california at least, there is a legal definition of a solar energy system:

    As used in this section, “solar energy system” means either of the following:

    (1) Any solar collector or other solar energy device whose primary purpose is to provide for the collection, storage, and distribution of solar energy for space heating, space cooling, electric generation, or water heating.

    (2) A structural design feature of a building, including either of the following:

    (A) Any design feature whose primary purpose is to provide for the collection, storage, and distribution of solar energy for electricity generation, space heating or cooling, or for water heating.

    (B) Any photovoltaic device or technology that is integrated into a building, including, but not limited to, photovoltaic windows, siding, and roofing shingles or tiles.

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