ABA Journal


Real Estate & Property Law

19 ‘right to dry’ states outlaw clothesline bans; is yours among them?

Aug 14, 2013, 08:24 pm CDT


Electricity on the island is a very expensive commodity. I use a line to dry clothing and it saves me a mint.

By Island Attorney on 2013 08 14, 10:09 pm CDT

Well I am all for hanging clothes for drying, only outside in a very private yard, but I am surprised to hear that it's illegal is some states listed above. In some areas the laundry is used as a way of communicating for those involved in illicit business's.

So I imagine a law prohibiting hanging laundry won't do much good for those who don't care about the law to begin with.

In a neighborhood, especially one that has little real estate between its inhabitants hanging laundry can be a real eyesore.

And without some notable discretion people who hang laundry may put out more than the rest of us care to know about leaving us in utter disgust.

By concernedcitizen on 2013 08 14, 11:41 pm CDT

I took this line from another article on this site entitled Letting it all Hang Out: People have hung their clothes out for thousands of years. They can hang the panties inside a sheet.”

Okay, that's true but America has changed. We now have an epidemic of grossly obese people and it's hard to stuff your underwear in a sheet when they are the size of sheets to begin with. So this may pose a real problem for some.

By concernedcitizen on 2013 08 14, 11:47 pm CDT

How stupid have we become as a society that this subject rises to the level of controversy requiring legislation?

By W.R.T. on 2013 08 15, 1:33 am CDT

Do the bans apply to private contracts that homeowners "willingly" enter into with their homeowners associations when they buy a house?

By Dan G on 2013 08 15, 4:00 am CDT

Sadly, most buyers do not pull and read the association covenants until it is too late. The uptight Frank Burns types who want to regulate your shingles, fencing, clotheslines and lawn irrigation are the same ones that come over to request that you at least wear a uniform if you are going to insist on mowing your own grass.

Finding ways to absolutely drive the covenant nuts with little oddities they did not think to prohibit is an essential skill when you are drawn into the contests. I further suggest mastering delivery of the time-honored Bugs Bunny quote, "You realize, of course, that this means war."

By B. McLeod on 2013 08 15, 6:12 am CDT

@1 - Would I be too personal if I asked what island you were referring to? I would absolutely love to hear more about being an island attorney.

By Anonymous on 2013 08 15, 1:24 pm CDT

@3 - that was unnecessary, and off topic. Obesity is a serious health issue, and the cause of it can often be complicated. (And speaking as someone who has lost 60 pounds and counting, and used to be morbidly obese, taunting obese people doesn't help.)

On the actual issue of the post - I grew up in a rural area, so clotheslines were part of life. And I've never found them to be "unsightly." Maybe it's different in crowded metro areas, but I find many of those areas are already "unsightly" and the savings in electricity costs is probably much needed by those folks.

By RecentGrad on 2013 08 15, 1:28 pm CDT

I was curious about it in my state, California. The citation I saw was to Civil Code section 714, which prohibits the banning of "solar energy systems." Solar energy system is defined at section 801.5 as:

" (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) Any structural design feature of a building, 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."

I am not sure how a clothesline would fit in here.

By Atty on 2013 08 15, 3:36 pm CDT

State statutes can trump terms of private contracts. They do it all the time - think of wage and hours laws. Trickier is a statute making illegal something in a contract which was legal at contract formation. I think as long as the statute is aimed at public welfare and safety (combatting pollution by reducing energy usage would qualify) it does not run afoul of the impairing contracts clause. It normally won't run afoul of bans on retrospective legislation.

Without looking at the terms of these statutes, I suspect that they aren't criminal in nature. But if the courts are told a certain clause is unenforceable, that pretty much resolves things. Did fine for race based clauses in deeds (which are at bottom contracts) and HOA agreements and covenants. This is not of the same magnitude, but would follow the same path.

Like #9, I'd be interested to see how a regulatory agency or court construed energy conservation from hanging cloths out to dry in the sun to equate with a solar energy device. Seems to me that conservation (including of $) is the primary purpose here.

Primary is an interesting word in the law. Colorado's Supremes once threw out a criminal conviction for a crime where "primary" was part of one of the elements. The justices pointed out the fact that the DAs, and then the AGs on appeal, had at various times asserted maybe half a dozen dissimilar meanings. They thought that sufficient to lead them to rule the term by itself was vague. Prudent drafters of laws and ordinances promptly came up with a definition - usually by saying it means more than half. I don't know how California views that term. And maybe vagueness is less of an issue in civil matters?

By Walt Fricke on 2013 08 15, 6:56 pm CDT

Anonymous @7: I would be happy to spread the gospel of being an Island Attorney. Give me some contact info and I will talk your ear off.

By Island Attorney on 2013 08 15, 9:36 pm CDT

@11 Island Attorney : ¿ Long Island – NY ? ■ ¿ Treasure Island – FL ?

@ALL : During the 1940s , clotheslines were quite common .
If the air was clean, dried clothing had a wonderful fragrance, albeit not in Pittsburg or Youngstown.

By Docile Jim Brady – Columbus OH 43209 on 2013 08 16, 12:21 am CDT

@12: I live and work on an island that is an American Territory.

By Island Attorney on 2013 08 16, 12:25 am CDT

I have never been without clothesline of one sort or another. My current abode has the version that you pull out from a spool bolted to the side of the house and hook over a nail or hook anchored to the privacy fence some 30 feet away.

By B. McLeod on 2013 08 16, 12:26 am CDT

HOAs often ban clotheslines. Aside from the aesthetic and liability issues, unit owners and renters tend to suspend the lines from the HOA-maintained fencing (--which is mandated in some building codes--) causing excessive wear and tear. You can usually circumvent these CC&Rs; by using drying racks.

By BMF on 2013 08 16, 3:29 am CDT

I work for an advocacy group called Project Laundry List. We support -at the very least- the freedom to choose line drying. The reason that Right to Dry laws exist is that contract law is so so strong--and that is a good thing. It is a very basic American freedom to enter into a contract. As an example (and this is far from an equivalent) many cities informally enforced the old 'color lines' through real estate covenants. By color line we mean this: white people here and black people over there. Some clauses in sales contracts have been struck through similar legislation that corrects out of date common law practices. We believe that the demand through CCRs in HOA contracts that traditional, environmentally sound, and money saving practice end is an overreach. or on Facebook.

By Kevin Combs on 2013 08 21, 11:47 pm CDT

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