Florida’s clothesline law trumps HOA rules

Article Courtesy of The News Press

By Melanie Payne

Published December 10, 2015


In the upscale community of Cross Creek Estates, Terri Krass’ sheets are flapping on the clothesline in her backyard.

While spending the summer in Maine, Krass found out that Florida statutes override the clothesline ban in homeowners’ association rules. So when she came back to Florida the 62-year-old Krass put a pipe in the ground, stuck an umbrella clothesline into it and started using sunshine to dry her laundry.

Just as she wasn’t aware of Florida’s right-to-dry legislation, she thought others might not know about the law either.

“I think you would be doing many homeowners a favor if you shared this information in your column,” the former school superintendent wrote. “Clotheslines have a major impact on energy usage and are environmentally sound.”

Krass said some of her neighbors have expressed an interest in putting up clotheslines and others have expressed consternation.

“They acted like I was white trash and I was going to ruin the community,” Krass said.

Indeed, there are people who don’t like clotheslines. And many HOAs’ rules state that clothesline are verboten. Cross Creek’s rules and regulations, too, state that clotheslines are prohibited.

But those were written prior to the state law, said David DeLaMater, who is a community association manager for Suitor, Middleton, Cox & Associates, the management company for the gated community where Krass lives.

“I think a few people were surprised there was a Florida Statute (163.04) on that,” DeLaMater said. “And they weren’t aware they were allowed.”

Still, DeLaMater said, very few of Cross Creek Estate’s 501 single-family homes will have clotheslines in the yard. “It’s been a statute for six years. But you can drive all around Fort Myers and sill can count on one hand the number of clotheslines.”

Alexander Lee would like to see that change. Lee is the founder of Project Laundry List, a nonprofit group with the mission of “making air-drying and cold-water washing laundry acceptable and desirable as simple and effective ways to save energy.”

Florida was the first state to pass a right-to-dry law, Lee said. The statute makes invalid any ordinance, covenant or deed restriction “which prohibits or has the effect of prohibiting the installation of solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources ...”

Electric clothes dryers are power guzzlers accounting for 6 to 10 percent of residential household electric use, Lee said. Because 80 percent of American households own dryers, a lot of the country’s energy resources go into drying laundry. It’s a lot of energy and a lot of money. Project Laundry List provides a calculator that lets people know how much they will save line-drying.

The dryer is not going away, Lee acknowledges. It will be hard to get people in the North to use clotheslines in the winter, for example. But he believes we need to cut the use of the dryer as much as possible.

“We were never preaching this for everybody,” Lee said. “But we don’t all need as a society to depend on something that requires multinuclear power plants.”

Laundry on a line is considered unattractive, said Marlene Kirtland, attorney and managing partner for the Community Association Law Group in Winter Park. That’s the reason nearly all homeowners’ associations will have in their rules and regulations a prohibition on the practice.

Even though those prohibitions are unenforceable in Florida, communities can place some restrictions on clothesline use. Things such as not allowing clothes to hang overnight or not allowing them in the front yard, for example. But there can’t be an outright ban, Kirtland said.

Realtor Patty Chafatelli doesn’t think clotheslines are unsightly or a poverty indicator. She used to live in a fairly affluent county in New Jersey where in good weather people always hung their sheets outside to dry “because it makes them fresh and smell pretty,” she said. “To me it’s not a lowbrow thing.”

House hunters considering gated communities might not agree. These buyers tend to like rules about what their neighbors can do with their property. “They like that the next door neighbor will have to keep his lawn a certain way or that the house across the street will be painted only certain colors,” Chafatelli said.

One Cross Creek Estates resident, Earl Kennedy, said he had no objection to clotheslines. He would, however, like to see some rules to make sure the lines aren’t a safety hazard. And he’s seen Krass’ umbrella clothesline and doesn’t consider it an eyesore.

“It looks fine,” he said. “I wouldn’t see where anyone would have a problem with it.”

Clothesline tips

If you’ve never slipped between sheets dried outside on a line, or put your head on a pillow case that a few hours before was hanging outside to dry, you’ve really missed out on something special.

It’s not too late to give it a try. Here are some tips to make your foray into the clothesline world a little easier:

  • Put a cup of white distilled vinegar in the rinse cycle of the wash to reduce stiffness.

  • Grouping your laundry items before hanging them on the line will make them easier to hang.

  • Put the edges of two items together under one clothes pin to save on space and pins.

  • Hang clothes by the hem. Towels and sheets can be folded over the line.

  • Hang whites in the sun but colors need shade.

  • On a multiline clothesline hang shorter items such as washcloths and pillow cases on the front line.

  • If you want fewer wrinkles, hang clothes out on a breezy – not real windy – day.

  • A clothespin bag makes the job easier.

  • Don’t leave your clothespins on the line after you take the laundry down.

  • Regularly wipe off your clothesline with a wet cloth.