Clotheslines & Drying Racks

New Civil Code Section 4753 was recently added to the Davis-Stirling Act in order to render void and unenforceable any provision of an association’s governing documents that “effectively prohibits or unreasonably restricts an owner’s ability to use a clothesline or drying rack in the owner’s backyard.” (Civ. Code § 4753(c).)

“Clothesline” and “Drying Rack” Defined

  • “Clothesline” – For the purposes of Section 4753, a “clothesline” is defined as a “cord, rope or wire from which laundered items may be hung to dry or air.” However, a “balcony, railing, awning, or other part of a structure or building shall not qualify as a clothesline.” (Civ. Code § 4753(a).)
  • “Drying Rack” – For the purposes of Section 4753, a “drying rack” is defined as an “apparatus from which laundered items may be hung to dry or air.” However, a “balcony, railing, awning, or other part of a structure or building shall not qualify as a drying rack.” (Civ. Code § 4753(b).)

Applies to “Backyards Designated for the Exclusive Use of the Owner”
Section 4753 applies “only to backyards that are designated for the exclusive use of the owner.” (Civ. Code § 4753(d)(3).) The language in Section 4753 does not state whether an owner has rights to install a clothesline or drying rack in other areas (i.e., in the front yard of the owner’s property or in common area). The analysis and legislative comments regarding Section 4753 that were generated before the law was ultimately enacted indicate an intent to limit those rights solely to “backyards”:

“Owners of a separate interest in [an association] would be free to use clotheslines and drying racks, subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by the [association], in backyards that are designated for the exclusive use of the owner.  [Section 4753] would not preclude [associations] from restricting the use of clotheslines in other areas of a separate interest, like a front yard, or in common areas.” (See Senate Judiciary Cmte Report on AB 1448 (7/7/15).)

“Reasonable Restrictions” on an Owner’s Backyard
Section 4753allows for an association to impose “reasonable restrictions on an owner’s backyard for the use of a clothesline or drying rack,” where “reasonable restrictions” are defined as restrictions “that do not significantly increase the cost of using a clothesline or drying rack.” (Civ. Code § 4753(d).) However, unlike in the context of restrictions on solar panels, the Civil Code does not specify what exactly constitutes a “significant” increase in cost for the purposes of Section 4753.

“Reasonable Rules” Governing Clotheslines or Drying Racks
Section 4753 allows for an association to establish and enforce “reasonable rules governing clotheslines or drying racks.” (Civ. Code § 4753(e).) Section 4750.10 does not define what constitutes a “reasonable rule” in this respect.

Tenant’s Rights: Civ. Code § 1940.20
Section 4753 was enacted concurrently with Civil Code Section 1940.20. Section 1940.20 grants a tenant the right to use clotheslines or drying racks in the tenant’s “private area” if approved by the tenant’s landlord and subject to various conditions. Those conditions generally include: not interfering with the maintenance of the property, not creating a health or safety hazard, not blocking doorways, not interfering with walkways, not affixing to a building without the landlord’s consent, not violating reasonable time or location restrictions, and obtaining the landlord’s consent. (See Civ. Code § 1940.20(b).) A tenant’s “private area” is defined as “an outdoor area or an area in the tenant’s premises enclosed by a wall or fence with access from a door of the premises.” (Civ. Code § 1940.20(a)(3). )

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