Clothesline Wars in HOAs and Condos

Clotheslines – Don’t Get in a Bind About Them

Clotheslines are becoming a big issue in HOAs (this I perceived 3 years ago when I first wrote this blog). Many CC&Rs prohibit any kind of clotheslines in HOAs. Big surprise. Most developers assume that people do not want to look at laundry hanging on the line. Most attorneys assume that people do not want to look at laundry hanging on the line. Many boards assume that owners do not want to look at laundry hanging on the line. Many people assume that if clotheslines are allowed, the next thing will be clothes hanging over balconies, over fences, and everywhere. Laundry, laundry … everywhere. ….

There are those who are pushing to change this, in fact pushing for legislation to prohibit associations from having such restrictions. As the energy crunch continues, one can expect the supporters of clothesline options to keep pushing. This is a blog I wrote about 3 years ago and look, legislation is here!! In California – if you are interested – you can follow AB 1448. The legislators have summarily tied it into solar energy as a “thing”, a draw, a selling point. See the Legislative Digest below:

“AB 1448, as introduced, Lopez. Solar energy systems: real property restrictions.

Existing law prohibits any covenant, restriction, or condition contained in any deed, contract, security instrument, or other instrument affecting the transfer or sale of, or any interest in, real property, and any provision of a governing document from effectively prohibiting or restricting the installation or use of a solar energy system.

This bill would prohibit these instruments or a rental agreement or lease from effectively prohibiting or restricting the installation or use of a solar energy system, including a clothesline.”

It just goes to prove that if people don’t conserve energy in all ways possible, the legislators will legislate about it.

Here’s a thought. Why not survey your owners to see if they would approve clotheslines in defined areas not subject to view by everyone? If the members surprise you (does the majority want to allow use of clotheslines?), then you could take the next step and consult with a lawyer to see if you need a CC&R amendment and owner approval, or can just propose a rule, circulate it to the members, and approve it.

I certainly can understand and anticipate that the general public probably does not want laundry hanging out on balconies, in front yards, over patio fences, and even in yards when homes are two or more stories high and look down into yards. But, might be some that would allowing clotheslines where they cannot be seen without peering over fences. In fact, there are those that would might like to have the option of hanging their laundry outside to dry, not just because it saves power, but because nothing smells as fresh as air dried sheets and towels. (Can you tell I was Midwest raised?)

If resistance to reasonable energy saving processes continues, legislation will likely force acceptance. It has done so already solar installations, drought resistant plant requests, prohibitions on fines for failure to water landscaping, and it is conceivable this bill regulating clotheslines may be next.

A New “Twist” On The Clothesline Line

About this and other subjects, I have an insatiable curiosity and determination to learn more on just about every subject pertaining to my area of the law, and so I ask people what they think about things, like whether the sight of clotheslines are bothersome (or maybe more appropriately, what hangs on them). I was in Iowa a few years ago when I last wrote on the subject visiting my mother, and I asked her how she felt about clotheslines in the yards. I thought she would say “I always loved hanging out the sheets.”

But she didn’t. Always surprisingly up on matters relating to property even though she is in her late 80s (she was a realtor and property manager for about 45 years), she said that the council in Iowa City (a thriving metropolis and melting pot in the middle of the country where I was born) passed an ordinance declaring that clotheslines were an “attractive nuisance”. This essentially means that if you leave a clothesline up in your yard you might be in for a lawsuit (and here I thought Iowa was not a litigious state like California). If a child climbs and falls off your clothesline or a (tall) child (or even a burglar) hangs themselves up on it, you are guilty of a “tort” (no, that’s not “tart” or “torte”). In terms of the legal world, a tort is sort of like a crime but in the civil context, meaning you may have to pay for the committing the deed (in this case leaving up a clothesline)- possibly dearly. You probably won’t have to go to jail, but you may lose your life savings.

Now this surprised me, because I got my love of wind and sun dried sheets and towels and my mindset of equating laundry on the line with something good, having been raised in the Midwest, where neighbors seldom complained about anything their neighbors do (yes, I mean just about anything). The lack of fenced yards and friendliness of the neighbors was always appealing.

But alas, undaunted, according to my mother, because of this regulation, many Iowa Citians have simply gone to a cement hole in the ground, covered in plastic for easy riding mower capability, with a portable “parasol” type of clothesline that goes up only when used for drying the day’s laundry.

So, even in Iowa, the permanent backyard clotheslines have a somewhat negative connotation.  Who’d a thunk??

All I know is that clotheslines are a delicate subject seemingly everywhere, maybe even more delicate than what one hangs upon them.


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2 Responses to Clothesline Wars in HOAs and Condos
  1. PortiA Newman
    May 22, 2015 | 9:30 am

    Im a owner selling my condo and in escrow, but escrow cannot finish because my HOA donot have fideilty bond. Fannie Mae will not give a loan to the new proscept owner. Can you give me a solution.

    • Beth Grimm
      June 8, 2015 | 3:22 am

      One solution might be to foot the bill for a fidelity bond. The usual protection is 3 Xs the money in reserves or a certain number of months of assessments income stream or something like that depending on whom you are trying to satisfy or what the governing documents say. You may be able to force the board to comply if the CC&Rs (California regulatory document in most cases) or the bylaws or Articles of Inc. if incorporated require it. You may be able to recover the cost in small claims court if you go there and file a complaint for lack of having the coverage, but unless the governing documents require it, you may be up a creek without a paddle.