Clotheslines vs. Homeowners’ Associations

Clotheslines vs. Homeowners’ Associations

People who want to hang clothes outdoors are winning the battle against communities that ban the practice as more states are passing laws to forbid the clothesline ban. Homeowners Associations (HOA) have led the charge to forbid hanging clothes outdoors. These HOAs have claimed that the practice lowers property values. Other HOAs that are blunter claim that hanging clothes is a practice of the gauche lower class.

The Right-To-Dry Movement Attacks

People who favor hanging clothes outdoors argue that the practice is environmentally friendly in numerous ways, allows clothing to last longer, is a basic property right and it saves money. For example, drying clothes in electric dryers can account for up to 10 percent of a monthly electric bill, while air-drying lessens reliance on power generation plants.

Sightline Daily claims that 26 states have already passed laws that forbid the banning of outdoor drying. A right-to-dry movement has organized and is spreading across the country. It has seen success in Florida, Vermont, Maryland, Hawaii, Maine and Colorado where specific laws have passed that forbid the outlawing of clotheslines.

Thirteen other states forbid clothesline bans through solar access laws, Sightline said. These laws were passed in the 1970s to buttress private property rights. The remaining 26 states have voided clothesline bans by other means. Few people, though, know about these laws and are still subjected to harassment from HOAs.

Some Green HOAs Are Not Very Green

Sightline counted 220 clothesline bans in various U.S. communities, and some claim to be environmentally friendly.

For example, the Forest Heights community outside of Portland, Oregon, has set aside one-third of its 600 acres as green space. It features seven hiking trails and a pond. The HOA champions green programs, and it provides a green shuttle service. However, rules in Forest Heights forbid clotheslines.

Hanging clothes must be limited to the inside of screened enclosures and may not be seen from any adjoining property or from the street. This is obviously a clothesline ban that the HOA is trying to enforce by clever use of HOA rules.

Property Rights Argument is on the Clothesline Side

The HOA bans are also on the wrong side of the argument when basic property rights laws are considered. Common law property rights in the U.S. do not recognize a right to a set or rising value on property or a view. Thus, the argument that clotheslines lessen property values becomes specious.

The right-to-dry forces are winning battles because they have logic, science and property rights on their side. Clothesline ban advocates in HOAs mainly rely on property rights arguments that are not recognized by courts and emotional appeals to upper class hierarchy and privileges.

Clothesline Arguments

When right-to-dry advocates argue their cause, they rely on the following facts, as outlined in Wikipedia.

  • It’s healthy because sunlight destroys bacteria.
  • Laundry smells fresh without the use of added chemicals.
  • Sunlight doesn’t cause shrinkage like a dryer.
  • Clothing remains softer with air drying as opposed to hot air drying that removes the fine fibers in material.
  • Line drying costs about two cents per load. Machine drying costs 20 cents per load.
  • No property right exists that guarantees property values.

HOA communities are at the forefront of clothesline ban battle, but people concerned for their property rights, the environment and saving money are winning the war. People should research clothesline laws in their states and get active in the right-to-dry movement.This article was contributed by Magnus Keith on behalf of Avalon Construction in Malibu, CA.

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