Real Estate & Property Law

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

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Once upon a time, a clothesline was a standard feature of most back yards. But concern that publicly airing clean laundry attached with clothespins to a rope or wire was unsightly, or obstructed views, or even created a safety risk (strangulation is sometimes cited) led a number of condominium associations and rental property managers to ban clotheslines.

Now, amidst growing concern about wasteful energy use, clothesline proponents argue that the traditional method of drying laundry is not only cheaper but better for the environment. Lawmakers in some 19 states have agreed, enacting “right to dry” laws that prohibit clothesline bans, the Seattle Times reports.

In Washington, however, the idea remains controversial. A proposal by a state lawmaker to protect clotheslines from enforcement ran up against strong opposition from condominium associations, which viewed such legislation as an intrusion on homeowner rights, the newspaper notes.

States that already have such bans include Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin, the Seattle Times reports. In Utah, individual land-use authorities can choose to protect the right to dry, according to a Sightline Daily article from 2012. The Sightline Daily post provides links to the state statutes that contain relevant provisions. The exact nature of “right to dry” laws varies from state to state—while some prohibit clothesline bans directly, others recognize a right to use solar power that implicitly may preclude those in authority from preventing a homeowner from drying laundry in the sun.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Letting It All Hang Out” “Clotheslines Entangle Homeowners in Legal Disputes” “Hogan & Hartson Lawyer Saves Electricity with Solar Panels, Clothesline”

Updated at 6:14 to clarify the nature of Utah’s right-to-dry stance.

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