Q&A: Why Can’t We Use Clotheslines?

Q. With the arrival of nice weather, we would like to save energy and practice a “greener” lifestyle by hanging our laundry outside. There is no formal line-drying area at our townhome community, so we asked about installing a line on our deck, but got turned down. I thought I read a while ago about condo owners having a “right to dry” in New Hampshire. Is there such a “right” — and is the law about this different in New Hampshire than in other states?

                                 — Hung Out to Dry

A.  “With environmental and conservation concerns gaining press and popularity in recent years, the debate over clotheslines has become serious business,” says attorney Gary M. Daddario, partner in Winer & Bennett, LLP, in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. “Almost all associations have rules banning clotheslines.  Usually the justification offered for such rules is that most unit owners do not wish to see the laundry of others. A similar reason is explained as part of the purpose of an association is to create and enforce a uniform exterior appearance. Some even claim that clotheslines and visible laundry in a neighborhood decrease the desirability and lower property values. Proponents of clotheslines offer arguments ranging from individual rights and freedoms, to conserving energy, to saving the planet from global warming and the like.

“The issue is one that varies from state to state. In some states, the anti-clothesline movement is such that local ordinances prohibit clotheslines even for single-family properties. That said, the pro-clothesline movement has gained significant ground in some areas. By 2012, a total of 19 states passed legislation overriding the clothesline bans of municipalities and associations. New Hampshire, however, was not among these states. In fact, though similar legislation was proposed on more than one occasion, it did not pass.”

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