Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hung Out to Dry

Homeowners' associations, eh? Ours sent us a violation notice regarding some laundry hanging in our backyard. This is a common "violation" in backyards according to many homeowners' associations across the country.

Such silly bylaws mean I'm allowed to save energy by not using the air conditioner, for example, because my neighbors don't have to watch me sweating like a pig inside my house, lying naked on the tile floor trying to keep cool, but if I try to save energy by not using a gas dryer on a hot day, someone might spy some clean t-shirts flapping over our patio for a few hours, oh no! "The premises shall be kept free and clear of all rubbish, debris, refuse piles and other unsightly objects... No clothes, sheets, and blankets, or laundry of any kind shall be hung..." Obviously, clean clothes belong in the same category as piles of refuse.

(OK, I admit we strung some extra clothesline out to the post of a "No Parking" sign that borders our tiny backyard, and that's technically not our property, and I accept there may be a rule against that. We were trying to gain some space to be able to hang out a few more items and in doing so, I don't know, detracted from the sign's modern aesthetics. It was not obstructing anyone's view of the sign. The branches of our apple tree do that!)

We do not line-dry every load of our laundry because it's often inconvenient, but we enjoy taking the money-saving opportunity when we can and have been occasional line-dryers for years. I wrote a post about it back in 2009:
Ahh, laundry.

You might see in the picture that the "No Parking" sign wasn't installed back then, and our yard was a lot more visible to neighbors when it wasn't packed with greenery like it is now.

Seven years and many loads of laundry later, it's apparently the first time an association board member (or whoever inspects and reports these things) has coincidentally strolled past our property and felt the need to report the "unsightly" violation. Never mind that by the time the letter was drafted, our laundry was probably folded and put away. Never mind the unsightly dead trees here and there throughout the neighborhood, trees that have been dry and leafless for several seasons now. Never mind the unsightly and fetid gravel pit that is supposed to be a nice water feature in the park but almost every year suffers some pump problem and is nonfunctional well into the summer. Never mind the foreclosed and obviously abandoned houses hiding in plain sight, their windows adorned with those cute yellow "Winterized... do not use the plumbing!" stickers. Yeah, some temporary laundry in a backyard is well worth the association's time, paper and postage.

Our association will send a yearly reminder for people to fix their leaky faucets because leaks waste water and, ah yes, cost the association money because our water usage is included in our monthly dues. They've never sent a newsletter encouraging people to conserve other resources, even though line-drying laundry could potentially save a family hundreds of dollars per year, a savings that might help them, gee whiz, not go into foreclosure.

So we'll try to refrain from using the street sign as a clothesline post (although it is so nice and sturdy), but we're not going to stop hanging our laundry out back. If the association bothers us about it, we'll whip out some newfound legal knowledge and inform the board members that they can't actually forbid us to hang laundry. A few states have laws prohibiting homeowners' associations from banning clotheslines, while several others have laws that association bylaws cannot prevent homeowners from using solar power. Illinois is one of the latter. The use of clotheslines is not specifically mentioned, but it is implicit in the law's definition of solar energy systems. The only thing the association can do is tell us where on our property we may place such a system. They're not going to choose the front porch.

Do you know your state's law? Find it here: https://cmcacorner.com/2013/05/29/hoas-and-clotheslines/. Thanks to the people who pushed back.

In the spirit of spurning silly citations and, instead, celebrating acts that make sense for the good of the environment or the community or both, I'll conclude by introducing you to Ron Finley, an inspiring gardener who made the most of some usable space and, when the city didn't like it, turned a little act of rebellion into a huge horticultural revolution.

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