Which States guarantee your right to use a clothesline in the teeth of an uptight homeowner's association?

People in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, or Wisconsin are allowed to use clotheslines, even if their homeowners' association objects. In other States, Big Pecksniff has successfully lobbied to allow bans of environmentally friendly clotheslines, citing "unsightliness" and "strangulation hazard." Seriously.

According to the report, a Washington legislator considered a clothesline-protection bill after a bunch of high-school students proposed it, but dropped the idea when lobbyists "came to Olympia intent on crushing the idea." In addition to the argument that hanging underpants outdoors is unsightly and lowers property values, which seems like a reasonable argument, the associations also appear to contend that the lines "pose a strangulation hazard," which doesn't, really. I don't think children could reach them. I guess you could strangle yourself on one if you tried, but I'd like to see the statistics on clothesline strangulations, if any, before making a decision.

These things would definitely impair my ability to ride my motorcycle freely through my neighbors' backyards, which I see as my God-given right as an American, so there is that.

Washington May Join 19 Other "Right to Dry" States

(Image: Clothesline c. 1974, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from sskennel's photostream)

Notable Replies

  1. In addition to the argument that hanging underpants outdoors is unsightly and lowers property values, which seems like a reasonable argument

    It does?

  2. zieroh says:

    I'm a bit mystified why people buy a house with an HOA attached in the first place, essentially trading their property rights for some intangible improvement to property value.

  3. I suspect there's a lot of overlap between people who don't understand the desire to live in an HOA neighborhood and people who don't understand the desire to buy a brand-new home.

    Though, I would add, that there's some stuff here that doesn't have to do with what you want, actually, but what you can afford. In a lot of American cities, it's now much cheaper to buy a house in the suburbs (with an HOA, natch) than to buy the same-sized house in an older, non-HOA neighborhood in town. I suspect that's how a lot of people get caught up in these things.

    As for where the lobbyists come from: Some HOAs hire their own.

  4. I'm the type of person who might understand the urge to buy a new home if it were well-built, attractive, and didn't so closely resemble all its neighbors. My sister bought her first new house in Temecula, CA, about 15 years ago when it first started "enjoying" a real estate boom. It was close enough to San Diego and Orange Counties to serve as a bedroom community, while being inland enough to be cheap. Her 2,500 square foot house cost something like $115,000 back then.

    But, to a certain extent, you kinda get what you pay for when "the lowest bidder" keeps popping up. The kitchen overhead light fixtures throughout the neighborhood kept crapping out, slabs would crack, bath fixtures would fail. But that's not what bugged me. I simply couldn't understand the allure of living in a neighborhood where every aesthetic is required to meet a certain very narrow consensus. My wife agrees: everytime we'd drive down to visit, as soon as we came in sight of the development she'd sing Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes" with a minor lyric change:

    "Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky, little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same. There's a beige one, and a beige one, and a beige one, and another beige one..."

    Whoever wrote the "Arcadia" episode of The X-Files knows whereof I speak, and it's no huge coincidence that it was set in a planned bedroom community outside San Diego. It could have been shot on my sister's cul-de-sac.

    Yesterday there was some discussion of HOAs on Airtalk on NPR, and I was surprised to hear how many callers approved of living in such a place. Yeesh. I could not possibly care less how many broken-down cars my neighbors have in their yards, nor what color they paint their houses, nor how long their grass gets. If someone is a genuine nuisance, I'll talk to them. If that doesn't work, I'll summon the local authorities. But bitching about clotheslines and purple paintjobs and vegetable gardens in the front yard? Puh-leeze. People oughta stop resenting their neighbor's comfort and happiness and start cultivating their own.

    Gol-danged control freaks.

  5. I have a feeling that "unsightly" in this case means "something poor people have."

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