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Real Estate & Property Law

Clotheslines Entangle Homeowners in Legal Disputes

Posted Sep 18, 2007 6:22 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Homeowners associations are butting heads with environmentally conscious homeowners, and threatened legal action is the result.

The fight is over clotheslines, used by homeowners trying to do their part to reduce global warming, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.). Clothesline advocates point to statistics that show clothes dryers eat up 6 percent of the electricity consumed by U.S. households.

About 60 million people live in communities governed by homeowners associations, and most don’t allow laundry to be hung outdoors, said Frank Rathbun, spokesman for the Community Associations Institute of Alexandria, Va.

Ten states don’t allow homeowners associations to restrict solar devices or give local authorities the power to bar such restrictions. It’s unclear if the laws apply to clotheslines except in the two states that specifically mention them, according to Washington, D.C., lawyer Erik J.A. Swenson of King & Spalding.

One person who learned the hard way about the homeowner restrictions is Susan Taylor of Bend, Ore. She received a series of letters warning that she had to lose the clothesline or face legal action. Now Taylor hangs her wet laundry in her garage.

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