Condo Media - June 2011 - (Page 16)

ASKED & ANSWERED Right-to-Dry A Community and Legislative Debate Q A QUESTION: Some of the owners in my [Rhode Island] condominium community have asked the board to allow them to place clotheslines in their backyards or on their decks — both limited common areas, where our rules prohibit outside installations of any kind. The issue has divided the board and the community and we’re trying to find a reasonable solution. Can you give us some idea of how other communities are dealing with this question? Is it true, as some owners here maintain, that most states have enacted laws requiring boards to allow outdoor clotheslines if owners want them, and that the trend is for communities to eliminate rules prohibiting them? ANSWER: I don’t have detailed information about how different communities are resolving this question, although it is no doubt true that many of them, like yours, are wrestling with it. However, I can tell you that only seven states have adopted so-called “right-to-dry” legislation, according to environmental advocacy groups that are tracking the issue. Your state, Rhode Island, is not among them, but two other New England states (Vermont and Maine) are on the list, along with Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland and Utah. The Rhode Island Legislature considered a right-to-dry law last year, but didn’t act on it. That measure has been included on a long list of topics that are to be studied this year by a Rhode Island Senate Commission to Study Adaptation to Climate Change. The Vermont and Maine statutes, both enacted in 2009, generally prohibit local governments or property owners from enacting rules prohibiting the use of clotheslines. But the Maine law specifically exempts communities with common areas, which means community associations in that state retain the authority to restrict clotheslines or prohibit them entirely. The Vermont legislation, on the other hand, exempts only “patio railings” in condominiums, cooperatives and apartments, and states specifically that except for that exclusion, bylaws enacted under the state condominium act “shall not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the installation of solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources.” Elsewhere in New England, the Massachusetts Legislature is considering two right-to-dry measures this year (see Legislative Update on page 36). One would allow owners and tenants in community associations to install clotheslines pretty much anywhere they like; the other would also prevent associations from enacting rules prohibiting the installation of clotheslines, but it would exempt common areas and limited common areas from that restriction, making it more acceptable to CAI’s Massachusetts Legislative Action Committee (MALAC), which is opposing the first bill but currently only “watching” the second. Dividing Communities It isn’t surprising that the right-to-dry debate has divided your community. It involves legitimate concerns and strong feelings on both sides. Owners who want to conserve energy say associations shouldn’t interfere with their efforts to do so; associations say rightto-dry laws unreasonably restrict their authority to govern the use of common areas in their communities and (at least in some cases) allow a minority of owners, who want to use clotheslines, to override the wishes of a majority, who don’t want to look at them. (In a 2007 survey of HOA residents commissioned by CAI, three-quarters of the respondents opposed laws requiring their communities to allow clotheslines; only 18 percent approved of them.) Owners’ feelings about clotheslines (solar panels and other energy conservation measures) will vary in different communities, and CAI’s guidance on the issue emphasizes the importance of allowing owners rather than state lawmakers to determine how to balance the competing concerns about energy conservation and aesthetics in their communities. “Homeowners who have invested in a community are in the best position to make these value judgments, whether the issues involve clotheslines, solar panels or street lighting,” a CAI position paper notes. Those arguments have thus far insulated community associations from right-to-dry bills in some states (Maine) but not in others (Vermont). The best advice for your board is probably to encourage an open discussion of the issue (at a special meeting or a regular board meeting) and then let owners vote on the question. You also might want to remind owners of another point CAI makes in its position paper: “While dissenting voices have a right to be heard, all residents have a contractual obligation to abide by the rules established by the association.” And you will definitely want to keep a close eye on the fate of right-todry bills in your state and others. CM 16 CONDO MEDIA • JUNE 2011

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Condo Media - June 2011

Condo Media - June 2011
From the CED’s Desk
Editorial Board
CAI News
CAI Regional News
Asked & Answered
Homeowner’s Corner
Fuel Economy
Vendor Spotlight
Legislative Update
Advertisers Index
Classified Service Directory

Condo Media - June 2011