Landlords Must Honor a Tenant’s Right to Dry

by | Oct 26, 2015 | Rental Property Management Tips

tenant screeningCalifornia has joined ranks with several other states that protect a tenant’s right to dry — laundry, that is, outdoors.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that conservation-friendly California would pass such a law, but rather that it took this long.

The bill, which this month was signed into law by Governor Brown, requires that landlords permit a tenant to utilize a clothesline or drying rack in the tenant’s leased area. However, there are some restrictions.

For instance, the line has to be approved, and tossing items over the balcony railings doesn’t cut it. Neither does doing laundry at odd hours.

Proponents say right to dry laws are good for the environment. By using solar and wind power to dry clothes rather than electricity or natural gas, the United States Energy Information Administration says a typical household could prevent an average of 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

However, landlords, property managers, HOA’s — and neighboring property owners — tend to disagree. Many are repulsed by the sight of someone’s personal items whipping in the breeze in plain view. And, with the poor air quality in some major cities, including Los Angeles, one has to wonder if that coveted fresh-air scent is more aspiration than reality.

But for California landlords, the debate is settled. Any restrictions on clotheslines must be fined-tuned to meet the new standards, which are incorporated into a “personal energy conservation” law that also provides for container and backyard vegetable gardening.

The clothesline law provides that any HOA rules or other “governing documents” that unreasonably restrict outdoor laundry drying are void and unenforceable. The rules only apply to spaces under the exclusive control of the tenant or private property owner.

The term “clothesline” is carefully defined, and includes a cord, rope, or wire from which laundered items may be hung to dry or air. By amendment, a balcony, railing, awning, or other part of a structure or building is specifically excluded.

A tenant may utilize a clothesline or drying rack in the tenant’s private area if all of these conditions are met:

The clothesline or drying rack will not interfere with the maintenance of the rental property;
Does not create a health or safety hazard, block doorways, or interfere with walkways or utility service equipment;
The tenant seeks the landlord’s consent before affixing a clothesline to a building;
Use of the clothesline or drying rack does not violate reasonable time or location restrictions imposed by the landlord; and
The tenant has received approval of the clothesline or drying rack, or the type of clothesline or drying rack, from the landlord.

The law does not apply to lease or HOA provisions that impose reasonable restrictions on an owner’s backyard for the use of a clothesline or drying rack. Reasonable restrictions can’t significantly increase the cost of using a clothesline or drying rack.

The law is intended to apply only to backyards that are designated for the exclusive use of the owner. Nothing in this law prohibits an association from establishing and enforcing reasonable rules governing clotheslines or drying racks.

Sunny states like Colorado, Florida and Hawaii are among a dozen or so that protect the right to dry, so check the statutes in your state to determine if your leasing policies are up to this “modern” standard.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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