California Becomes a “Right to Dry” State!

photo (7)Good news for Californians who want to save energy by hanging their laundry outdoors on a clothesline or a drying rack: Governor Jerry Brown recently signed AB-1448, a law prohibiting both homeowners’ associations and landlords from placing unreasonable restrictions on hanging clothes out to dry.

“I didn’t even know hanging laundry was illegal before!” is a comment I’ve heard from some in response to this new law. Well, it wasn’t. And if no one has ever stopped you from hanging laundry, then the bill won’t likely change your life. (Unless you someday move, or downsize to a condo . . . .)

Two groups of people are greatly affected, however. These include:

  1. People who live in condominiums, townhouses, or homes built in common-interest developments and under the governance of a property association or homeowners’ association (HOA). Members of such communities are routinely covered by rules and restrictions (often contained in a document called Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions or CC&Rs). In some cases, these rules are part of the appeal of living in a planned community. They make sure that one’s neighbors can’t leave trash in the yard or paint their house in camouflage or rainbow tones. But if you wanted to hang laundry in your back yard, and were in a community where the rules said, “No go,” you were forced to run your dryer. (If you don’t have a back yard, however, the new law might not help you. You still can’t hang your clothes in a common area if the rules forbid it.)
  2. Tenants whose landlords forbid hanging laundry. They can now use a clothesline or drying rack, if approved by the landlord and placed within the tenant’s private area, and so long as the line or rack doesn’t interfere with property maintenance.

The new law doesn’t create a laundry-hanging free-for-all. Homeowners’ associations as well as landlords may still set reasonable restrictions, including on the time and location of hanging laundry.

But it’s an important start, especially given that, as the bill drafters noted, the California Energy Commission has found that “Clothes dryers can be one of the most expensive home appliances to operate, using approximately 6 percent of a home’s total electricity usage.”

Frankly, I’m not sure what all the fuss was about in the first place. As California author/illustrator Constance Anderson has noticed, a line full laundry swaying in the breeze can be beautiful. The image above is borrowed from her children’s book about people hanging laundry around the world, Smelling Sunshine

Constance further explains that in preparing the book, she drew upon her childhood experience of hanging laundry in southern California with a busy mother. “When we hung laundry together, we slowed down to take in the sights and smells and sounds of the world around us, which brought us closer. Then, at the end of the day, I would pull up the covers and that wonderful smell of the outdoors and its memories, what I call the smell of sunshine, was in the sheets.”