While electronic communications are becoming much more prevalent with many offices moving to digital files, mailed notices are still a necessity. A present dispute concerning a homeowner’s installation of a clothes drying line is a reminder that 1) clotheslines are protected by Florida’s Renewable Resources Act and 2) the lack of specifics and guidelines governing architectural modifications can lead to significant enforcement issues. In the case at hand, presently being litigated in Sarasota County, Florida, a homeowner installed a clothes drying line which was actually approved by the Association. However, upon the Board’s discovery that the clothesline was visible from the street, they attempted to rescind their approval and further imposed fines against the homeowner. The homeowner has challenged the Association’s actions, primarily claiming that the Association cannot enforce a nonexistent restriction concerning the location of clotheslines. The Community’s documents contain no restrictions either in the recorded covenants or Board-adopted guidelines which restrict the location of clotheslines.
The case is a reminder that clothes drying lines are indeed protected by Florida’s Renewable Resources Act and therefore cannot be prohibited in their entirety. However, many communities adopt guidelines governing clotheslines which require that they be placed so as not to be visible from the street. The homeowner in the case in question is challenging the Association’s enforcement actions primarily based upon the lack of any specific guideline governing the location of clotheslines. In other words, the homeowner is not claiming that the Association cannot restrict the location of clotheslines. Instead, the homeowner is claiming that the Association cannot mandate the location due to the lack of a specific restriction.
Could the homeowner somehow argue that a specific location in the backyard is protected as the “most effective” location for clothesline? I suspect this would be a difficult argument to make. Associations can and should adopt restrictions governing location of clotheslines and other exterior modifications to ensure that the Association does not end up in a difficult dispute concerning the location of an improvement with no restrictions or guidelines to rely upon.
As always, consult your Community Association counsel for specific guidance concerning your community.