On May 4, 2010, Governor O'Malley signed into law Maryland SB 224, the so-called "Right-to-Dry" legislation, which requires condominium associations, homeowner associations, and cooperatives to allow homeowners to install clotheslines on their property. The new law, effective on October 1, 2010, adds section 14-130 to the Real Property Code, "Installation and Use of Clotheslines on Residential Property." Please click here to read the full law.

Maryland's Right-to-Dry Law

The new law provides that association governing documents and rules may not prohibit a homeowner from installing or using clotheslines on his/her property. While associations may not completely prohibit the use of clotheslines, they may place reasonable restrictions on: (1) the dimension, placement, or appearance of clotheslines in order to protect "aesthetic values;" or (2) the placement of clotheslines in order to protect persons or property in the event of fire or other emergencies.

With this new law, Maryland joins a number of other states, including Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Utah, and Vermont, that have enacted "right-to-dry" legislation. This year, Virginia considered--and failed to enact--SB 221, which would have prohibited associations from banning the installation or use of a "natural drying device" on the owner's property, but would have permitted associations to dictate the placement, duration, and timing of clothesline use.

In recent years, clotheslines have experienced a resurgence in popularity as energy-saving devices, as clothes dryers use at least 6 percent of all household electricity consumption. The new laws have sparked heated debates. Proponents argue that they should not be prohibited by community covenants from saving on energy bills or practicing environmental stewardship. Opponents counter that laws prohibiting the bans erode local property rights, interfere with contracting in private communities, and negatively impact community aesthetics and property values.

What Condominium Associations, Homeowner Associations, and Cooperatives in Maryland Should Do

In order to comply with the new law, associations should take the following steps in 2010.

  1. Review Governing Documents and Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions Associations should, along with legal counsel, review all Governing Documents and rules concerning architectural control and the installation or use of clotheslines to determine if there are illegal prohibitions in any such documents. If there are blanket prohibitions against the installation or use of clotheslines on homeowner property, those provisions will be unenforceable under the new law, and, while not required to do so, associations may wish to amend those provisions to bring them into compliance.
  2. Consider Appropriate Regulations Concerning Installation or Use of Clotheslines The new clothesline law specifically permits an association to place "reasonable restrictions" on the dimensions, placement, or appearance of clotheslines. The law also requires governing bodies of associations to do the following before adopting any restriction on the installation or use of clotheslines:
  • Hold an open meeting on the proposed restrictions to provide affected homeowners and tenants an opportunity to be heard; and
  • Provide advance notice of the time and place of the open meeting by publishing a notice in a community newsletter or on a community bulletin board, or by the method prescribed by the governing documents, or by other means reasonably calculated to inform the affected residents.

It is important to note that reasonable minds can differ concerning the meaning of "reasonable restrictions" on the dimensions, placement, or appearance of clotheslines.

  1. Educate the Community About the New Law With the potential impact of this new law on community aesthetics, among other things, managers and board members should anticipate a robust debate on the topic. Educating the homeowners on the law and possible restrictions should help in the development of policies that comply with the new law and incorporate community-appropriate "reasonable restrictions" for the installation and use of clotheslines.