The Right to Dry: Using Clotheslines in Common Interest Community Associations
In recent months, articles in numerous publications – including Time, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times – have examined a growing environmental movement that has been dubbed “The Right to Dry”, namely, the right to utilize clotheslines and air-drying in common interest community associations. Individuals and advocacy groups are taking sides – lining up over clotheslines, if you will – regarding the rights of residents to use clotheslines to dry clothes versus the rights of associations to ban or restrict such conduct due to the encroachment upon common elements.

On one side are the pro-clothesline advocates who assert that using clotheslines is energy efficient and environmentally friendly. According to the recent Residential Energy Consumption Survey by the federal Energy Information Administration, clothes dryers consume as much as six percent of total residential household energy usage in America, third behind refrigerators and lighting. In addition, the study found that dryers can emit up to a ton of carbon dioxide per household every year. Opponents of such air-drying rights argue against clotheslines on aesthetic grounds and claim that allowing the unfettered use of clotheslines would adversely affect property values. Some claim design issues in that there is nowhere to place a clothesline without being an eyesore, evoking urban blight, and taking up space in the backyard or encroaching on common elements.

In previous years, those averse to allowing clotheslines have been successful in persuading common interest community associations across the country to ban outdoor clotheslines. It is estimated that most private condominium and homeowners associations restrict the ability of residents to hang laundry outside; however, those numbers may soon be changing in light of the environmental concerns, proposed legislation and the ability to compromise regarding such restrictions. “Right to Dry” advocates are currently proposing legislation in many states that would limit the ability of associations to restrict the use of clotheslines. While as many as ten states currently have legislation allowing energy-saving devices such as solar panels, only three states – Florida, Utah and Hawaii – currently have laws that specifically protect homeowners’ rights to use clotheslines. Lawmakers in North Carolina, Vermont and New Hampshire are also proposing similar legislation as part of energy conservation measures. In addition, not all clothesline advocates are necessarily advocating doing away with clothesline rules. Some proponents of clotheslines and common interest community associations have found a happy medium in relaxing such restrictions to allow air drying during certain hours – such as weekdays between 10 AM and 4 PM – and/or allowing either retractable or removable clotheslines to eschew neighbors’ aesthetic concerns.