California Assembly Bill No. 1448 has been approved and enacted into law.
This bill adds Civil Code section 4750.10 to the Davis-Stirling Act and
makes any prohibition against clotheslines in exclusive use backyards
unenforceable. Unreasonable restrictions that effectively prohibit the
use of clotheslines in exclusive use backyards are also prohibited.
We have received many questions regarding the definition of an “exclusive
use backyard.” Is a patio or balcony considered a “backyard”
for the purposes of this Civil Code section?
In looking for an answer to this question it helps to review the legislative
history of Assembly Bill No. 1448 to gain an understanding of the intent
of those who drafted the new law, and the resulting Civil Code section 4750.10.
In February 2015, the legislature introduced the new bill, which was intended
to add a provision to Civil Code section 714 and prevent associations
from prohibiting “solar energy systems, including clotheslines.”
Civil Code section 714 primarily deals with the solar power and related
reasonable restrictions. Clotheslines seem to have been a second thought
on the sustainability - go green movement. The vague reference and inclusion
of the clotheslines would have likely left many associations in the dark
as to how to proceed with enforcement, non-enforcement, and regulation
of clotheslines. The inclusion of clotheslines within this statutory law
was far too broad.
By the end of March 2015 clotheslines were no longer tacked in with solar
energy systems. Clothesline and drying rack regulations were upgraded
to receiving their own Civil Code sections; Civil Code section 1940.20
and Civil Code section 4750.10. Section 1940.20 was added to address the
issue as it relates to landlord tenant relations and section 4750.10 was
added to address the issue in common interest developments. Then, the
legislature had begun the process of narrowing the scope of the regulation
Civil Code section 4750.10 not only addressed the use of clotheslines but
also added drying racks to the equation. The March 2015 version also addressed
the location in which homeowners clotheslines and the related regulations
would be permitted and applicable. That version stated that the provisions
will apply to “yards” or “backyards”, to which
exactly is not completely clear. By May 2015 the matter of yard or backyard
was clarified and the language of the bill was modified to use the term
“yard” with section (b)(3) stating, “this section applies
only to yards that are designated for the exclusive use of the owner.”
The term “Yards” is still a very board term in the context
of associations. Would this have meant associations would be required
to permit clotheslines and drying racks in front yards?
Fortunately, June 2015, brought more change to Civil Code section 4750.10.
The word “yard” was replaced with the word “backyard.”
The legislature had continued to narrow the scope of the regulation. “Backyard”
was the term that stuck. No further revisions were made to section 4750.10.
The revisions were officially enacted October 2015.
Because the bill began with broad restrictions on the enforcement of clotheslines
provisions and slowly narrowed the language and context of the bill, it
would appear the intent of the legislation was to only find those restrictions
prohibiting clotheslines in exclusive use “backyards” as being
unenforceable. Based upon this understanding of the development and intent
of the bill and its resulting Civil Code section 4750.10, associations
should be able to continue to prohibit clotheslines in patios and balconies.
As always, however, your association’s individual CC&R’s
and Condominium plan should be reviewed by counsel to make sure the definitions
of “backyard,” “patio,” and “balcony”
are clearly stated and distinguished.