Monday, September 14, 2009

Environmental, Economical Clotheslines Violate Association Rules

I was reading an article recently on regarding a homeowner who was using a clothesline, raising issues involving the aesthetics of the community.  Luckily, Florida is one state that protects the use of clotheslines, overriding covenants and restrictions put in place by developers of neighborhoods.  To some, this classic method of drying one's clothes is an eyesore, but to others, it is a way to help make ends meet or just a small way to help positively impact the environment (instead of using an energy intensive dryer).

According to the article, some see state legislation involving clotheslines to be intrusive, with opponents believing that homeowner's associations are the official elected representation of the homeowners and they should dictate what goes on.  “They are the homeowner volunteers who have been elected by their neighbors to serve the best interests of the individual communities” said Frank Rathbun, spokesman for the Community Associations Institute, but can they really state that they are acting in the best interests of the homeowner?  No.  If you look at the quote, he states "communities".  this is a common problem with lobbyist groups such as the Community Associations Institute.  The CAI believes that they are the ones who know what homeowners want because they represent homeowners associations, which in turn represent homeowners, but in reality, the CAI exists to help fulfill the association's goals, regardless of what the homeowner's desire.

Supporters of association rules cite declining property values as a reason to prevent people from drying their clothes.  According to a real estate agent who comments in the article, clothes dried outside make a neighborhood look more like a "tenement".  The problem with that logic is that if clotheslines make a neighborhood look like a "tenement", then I am certain other things can too, atleast to some.  I am sure that if too many cars were seen driving around a neighborhood, it would be indicative of something negative, and therefore lower proeprty values, or you could look at this issue racially, and say that if too many black people buy a certain number of homes in the neighborhood, then property value would decrease because things may start to look like a "tenement".  I am certain someone could compile statistics to show data backing up such claims and prevent black people from moving into a neighborhood, on the basis that it protects existing homeowner's property investments, which I am certain has happened in the past.  Even doing a quick search online yielded a result here, at The Chicago Reporter.  Although this is an extreme argument using the logic over whether clotheslines should exist, it demonstrates the flawed ideology of the CAI.

According to Paul T. Carroccio in the article, "When people buy these … condos, they read these documents and they're assured the buildings are always going to look the way they're intended to look.”  But if you look at other neighborhoods, the interest in protecting the homeowner is not the case.  Some homeowners have purchased houses in certain neighborhoods because of the particular covenants in place, only to have the neighborhood try to create more restrictive covenants years later, all to protect the homeowner.  This is the case with Sand Lake Hills in Orlando, where the homeowner's association is trying to amend the covenants that have been in place for over 30 years, and have remained untouched until recently.  The association has gone as far as to try and amend surrounding subdivision's documents as well to create one large master association, but by doing so would try to change the conditions homeowners bought into, attempting to do so with a simple majority.

Even if you consider other arguments, like the environmental impact of clothes dryers, where according to U.s. Department of Energy, dryers used 5% of electricity used in homes.  Although the number is not greater, like 35% or 50%, it is still significant when considering all other electronics used in a home.  Helping protect clotheslines is part of a bigger picture, which includes things such as rain barrels or solar panels.  To place restrictions on one would hurt chances for the others, and why should there be restrictions on something, just because a select few believe it impacts their property values? 

This matter should not be left to interest groups like the CAI, or to homeowners associations, because such groups have been prone to act against the best interests of homeowners in the past.  Municipal governments have also been slow to act, such as in Florida, where I have been in contact with various local agencies, with most cases result in no response or an extremely delayed response.  To have state legislation would benefit homeowners, not the HOAs, and who do the state governments represent?  Allowing these associations and their lobbyists to have their restrictions is an attack on everybody's property rights.

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