Sun-drying clothes consumes less energy, extends garments’ lifetime by avoiding the dryer’s harsh wear and tear, and saves money and the environment.  Sun-drying clothes for families without a dryer saves numerous trips to the laundromat each year.  California law encourages sun-drying laundry by guaranteeing California tenants the right to sun-dry their clothes without fear of repercussion using clotheslines and drying racks on their private areas, such as balconies and window ledges.  Landlords cannot try to evict California tenants for simply sun-drying their laundry.

Now, outright bans on clotheslines or drying racks in a California tenant’s private space are prohibited.  California tenants may hang a clothesline or use a drying racker in their private area by right.  California Civil Code § 1940.20.  This means landlords may not interfere with any California tenant that sun-drying their laundry, provided the tenant complies with all of the following requirements:

  1. The clothesline or drying rack does not interfere with maintenance, such as window washing, garbage collection, or gardening;
  2. The clothesline or drying rack does not create a health or safety hazard, block a doorway or walkway, or interfere with utility equipment;
  3. Using the clothesline or drying rack will not violate reasonable time or location restrictions imposed by the landlord;
  4. The California tenant obtains consent before affixing the clotheslines to the building; and,
  5. The California tenant received approval from the landlord.

While it is unlikely a California tenant needs to obtain approval for a portable, folding drying rack placed on a private balcony, it is critical that the tenant request permission to hang a clothesline that is connected to the building.  For example, California tenants likely need landlord permission when rigging a clothesline attached to nails drilled into the building’s exterior.

However, in certain places with robust tenant protections, such as in San Francisco, a tenant may attempt to defeat an eviction for simply hanging a clothesline by arguing, where applicable, that the breach of the lease is not a substantial lease violation.  San Francisco Administrative Code § 37.9(a)(2).

Finally, the law defines three key terms: 1. Clothesline, 2. Drying Rack, and 3. Private Area.  Clothesline is defined as, “a cord, rope, or wire from which laundered items may be hung to dry or air.”  California Civil Code § 1940.20.  The law defines drying rack as something, “from which laundered items may be hung to dry of air.”  Id.  The building, including balconies, railings, and awnings, are not clotheslines or drying racks.  Further, private area is an outdoor area or an enclosed part of the tenant’s premises.