While only a few states guarantee a “right-to-dry,” at the time of this writing, proposed legislation aimed to remove bans on clotheslines within condominium associations appears on several statehouse docket lists in New England. Arguments are fervent on both sides of the issue; at the core is the balance of the protection of private rights versus energy conservation for the public good. The wording and intent of the right-to-dry bills vary by state. While as many as ten states currently have legislation allowing energy-saving devices such as solar panels, only a handful – including Florida, Utah, Colorado and Hawaii – currently have laws that specifically protect homeowners’ rights to use clotheslines, according to various reports.
Hung out to Dry?
Connecticut’s House Bill No. 6429, according to opponent Scott Sandler, Esq., and president of the Connecticut chapter of the Community Associations Institute (CAI-CT), would prevent any governing body, including condominium associations, from prohibitingresidents from erecting and using clotheslines and drying racks within their communities. It is aimed at both current and future restrictions.
While the intent of the bill is admir-able, Sandler says there are several reasons why the bill should not be enacted. Physical and practical compliance is at issue, as well as additional cost that would have to be shared by all residents, including those who didn’t use the clotheslines, he says.
Perhaps more importantly, Sandler and other opponents to the bill regard the proposed action as a trampling of homeowners’ rights and expectations. “We need to be very, very careful if we are going to pass laws that override private covenants and allow government to interfere in that. This bill prevents associations from enforcing the provisions of their governing documents. In doing so, it negates the expectations of the homeowners by allowing their neighbors to ignore the aesthetic and uniform standards of the community. Furthermore, it may have a negative impact on their property values.
"While energy costs and environmental conservation pose a challenge of singular importance, there are literally thousands of actions a homeowner or association can take to become better environmental stewards. It is the associations themselves, not lobbyists nor members of state government, who are in the best position to decide what methods will work best for a given community,” concludes Sandler. As of early May, the legislation had passed through the environment committee and was on its way to the full House for consideration.