Hang ‘Em Out to Dry! (Clotheslines & the Law)

Update – April 10, 2012

I asked the Province (Ministry of Energy) to clarify the regulations regarding clotheslines in condominiums. Here’s the reply I received:

Dear Mr. Wobschall:

Thank you for your letter regarding the use of clotheslines in condominiums. I commend you on your interest in conserving energy.

The Ministry of Energy promotes the air drying of clothes over using a clothes dryer where appropriate. In 2008, the province changed the regulation pertaining to the use of clotheslines to dry laundry in Ontario. This change allowed people to use clotheslines in certain circumstances where they might not otherwise be allowed. This change applies to ground level clotheslines only; clotheslines on condominium balconies continue to be subject to the rules set by the building owner and agreed to by its occupant owners or tenants. As such, allowing the use of clotheslines on the balcony of your condominium unit is at the discretion of the Condominium Board.

For more information, please visit the Ministry of Energy’s Electricity Regulations webpage at http://www.energy.gov.on.ca/en/archive/electricity-regulations/. This site includes a series of questions and answers which will provide further clarity on the government’s clothesline regulation.

Once again, thank you for your letter regarding the use of clotheslines in condominiums.

Update – April 2, 2012

Added condo-specific information from the Ministry of Energy’s website below. Pete W.

Update – March 10, 2011

I just received the following information from the City in response to a question I asked on this issue:

Hi Pete,

Without quoting from the Zoning By-law directly (as it’s pretty long) there are no zoning regulations for clotheslines. A clothesline is not considered a structure and can be located within any required yard. None of the Zoning By-laws speak specifically to clotheslines so this is our interpretation applied across the board.

Cheers,
Debbie
Debbie Spence
Communications Officer
General Manager’s Office
Planning and Economic Development Department
www.hamilton.ca/pednewsupdates
City of Hamilton
71 Main Street West, 7th Floor
Hamilton, ON
Debbie.Spence(at)hamilton.ca

Original Post…

We had a group from the Hamilton Naturalists Club visit EcoHouse for a tour recently and our tour guide (Clare) was asked about regulations pertaining to clothelines. This may be old news to some, but we do get this question more often than you might think. Thanks to some of our great staff (Clare, Laura, and Kirstin) for the info I used in this post.

Yes, You May

If you’re looking for the quick response: yes – you may use a clothesline at most residences; as long as it doesn’t pose a health threat, and it’s on your property; even if you currently live under a developer’s covenant, landowner rental agreement,  or municipal or condominium by-law preventing their use.

Provincial Clothesline Regulations

Provincial regulations enacted in 2008 to contribute to energy conservation efforts, superceeds most by-laws and provisions restricting their use. Here is my summary of the Province’s webpage overview on this subject (I am not a lawyer – best to read the regulations yourself):

Generally Speaking…

  • Clotheslines are considered: clotheslines, clothestrees, and anything else that has the purpose of “drying clothes” and “no other purpose” (I’m guessing that a 12 foot statue of your mother-in-law wouldn’t qualify as a “clothes dryer”.
  • Clotheslines can be used in back and side yards.
  • Clotheslines can be used if you access them by standing directly on the ground, or from a deck or other fixed structure.
  • Clotheslines can be used if they are on your property, or property you are renting as long as your agreement/lease allows you (and only you) to use the property.
  • Clotheslines can be used as long as they do not compromise safety.
  • Condos are a little different, but the act does permit use in “ground level exclusive right of use areas”, as long as they do not pose health risks.
  • Clotheslines on balconies are still subject to the rules of the building owner and agreed to by its occupant owners or tenants.

Please note: this is my summary only, please read for yourself the Province’s summary of the regulations here.

Text from Ontario Regulation 97/08:

Designation of clotheslines etc.
1.  The following are designated for the purposes of subsection 3 (1) of the Act:

1. Clotheslines.
2. Clothestrees.
3. Any goods and technologies that have a purpose that is the same as a clothesline or clothestree, and no other purpose.
4. Any equipment that is necessary for the proper installation and operation of anything that is designated under this section. O. Reg. 97/08, s. 1.

Prescribed circumstances
2.  A person is permitted to install and use any goods or technologies designated in section 1, if the following circumstances apply:

1. The designated goods or technologies and any necessary equipment are installed on property upon which is situated a house or building that is used solely for residential occupancy and which is the person’s place of residence.
2. The designated goods or technologies and any necessary equipment are installed in a manner so as to ensure that there are no impediments to safety, including, but not limited to, impediments to access to or egress from the house or building.
3. The designated goods or technologies and any necessary equipment are installed adjacent to the side or rear wall of the house or building so as to be useable by a person,

i. standing directly on the ground,
ii. standing on a deck or other fixed platform accessed directly from the ground floor of the house or building, if the deck or fixed platform is no higher than the floor level of the ground floor, or
iii. standing on a step-stool or similar device placed either directly on the ground or on a deck or other fixed platform accessed directly from the ground floor of the house or building, if the deck or fixed platform is no higher than the floor level of the ground floor.

4. The designated goods or technologies and any necessary equipment are installed in an area where the person has an exclusive right of use by virtue of their residency. O. Reg. 97/08, s. 2.3.  Omitted (provides for coming into force of provisions of this Regulation). O. Reg. 97/08, s. 3.

Clothes Dryer Energy Use

So, how much energy (and cash) can you save with a clothesline?

Clothes dryers are a handy item, particularly when its cold or raining for periods of time and you can’t use a clothesline. However, the efficiency of clothes dryers is not advancing as quickly as other appliances such as dishwashers or clothes washers – it still pays to reduce your clothes dryer use. The following table compares data from Natural Resources Canada.

Appliance                                       1990*                                 2008*

Dishwashers                                      1,026                                    343

Clothes Washers                              1,218                                     387

Clothes Dryers                                 1,103                                    916

*Average annual kilowatt hour use.

NRCan assumes you dry 8 loads per week, or 416 averages loads per year. Based on the 1990 consumption data, and at $0.11 per kilowatt hour*, the annual average cost to operate per year is around $121 per year. At the 2008 average, it would cost around $100 to operate per year. A very rough calculation based on using a clothesline from May to September (5 months of the year, a 42% reduction in use) would result in  a savings of around $50 for the 1990 average, and $42 for the 2008 average.

*Please note: determining the average price per kilowatt for electricity is difficult. We used $0.11 as this was the number provided to Green Venture as a rough estimate from our utility, before Smart Meters were introduced and recent electricity rate hikes, which now make it more difficult to calculate.  

Clothes Dryer Conservation Tips

When you must use a dryer, here are some tips on dryer conservation from Horizon Utilities.

Lots of great info from Natural Resources Canada on selecting new appliances, calculating the life costs of an appliance, and more.

FAQs from Ministry of Energy Website

Change to Clothesline Regulation

April 18, 2008 – Changes have been made to the regulation pertaining to the use of clotheslines to dry laundry in Ontario.

The province is putting an end to some restrictions that prevent people from using outdoor clotheslines. This includes agreements between home builders and buyers in some towns and cities in Ontario.

Questions and Answers About Ontario’s Clothesline Regulation

What does the new regulation say exactly?
The new regulation allows people to use clotheslines in certain circumstances where they might not otherwise be allowed – because of a developer’s covenant, landowner rental agreement, or municipal or condominium by-law. The regulation overrides any such prohibitions.

Where are clotheslines allowed?
Clotheslines are now expressly permitted:

  • On ground level (includes a deck) in a homeowner’s back or side yard;
  • On a ground level (includes a deck) in a renter’s back or side yard, if the rental arrangement gives exclusive use of the yard to the renter.

Where will clotheslines still not be permitted under this regulation?
This regulation will not override existing by-laws whose purpose is to maintain safety (such as prohibitions against its use in high rises) or any provincial statute or regulation.

Does the regulation mean that clotheslines are not allowed on balconies?
Clotheslines on balconies will continue to be subject to the rules set by a building owner and agreed to by its occupant owners or tenants. The government’s decision was to not overturn rules banning clotheslines in those situations. Those rules recognize the potential safety issues associated with clotheslines on upper floor balconies.

By specifying that the regulation applies to bans on clotheslines on the ground floor, the government was, however, able to apply the regulation to a wider set of building types. For example, the regulation does encompass ground floor clotheslines for buildings over three stories, without increasing the safety risk.

How does the regulation affect condominiums?
The new regulation establishes clotheslines in ground floor exclusive right-of-use areas as a permitted good or technology to promote energy conservation, as prescribed by the Energy Conservation Leadership Act, 2006 (ECLA). As a result, any condominium bylaw prohibiting clotheslines in these areas is now overridden.

  • In some condominium projects, a ground level area is part of the condominium unit (and is not a common element). In this case, a clothesline may be installed or used in the side or back yard, so long as it does not impair safety.
  • In the case of a ground level area of a condominium that is part of an exclusive use common element, the unit owner will need to speak with the Board before installing a clothesline. Common elements belong to the corporation as a whole, and the Board has a duty to manage and administer the common elements on behalf of the corporation and the unit owners. Board approval is always required before an owner makes any alteration to a common element.
  • Under the new regulation, a portable drying rack that does not result in any alteration to an exclusive use common element could be used (without need of Board approval) in the side or back yard of a ground level condominium unit, so long as it does not impair safety.

Does the regulation apply to trailers and tents?
The regulation applies to property where there is a house or other residential “building”. A mobile home in a complex where the homes, while “mobile”, move infrequently, are set on fixed semi-permanent supports, and are typically the occupant’s principal residence and primary mailing address, are included. Trailers and tents in areas such as parks and camp grounds are not a building, and not commonly someone’s primary house, and so are not included.

Parks and camp areas where people often go with trailers or tents, typically have rules meant to protect the natural features of the area, For example, there may be concerns over how a clothesline might be fastened to a tree, or might damage a small tree. These local rules may or may not make provision for clotheslines. In either case, the regulation does not apply to these scenarios as the regulation would only apply in respect of a property upon which is situated a house or other residential building being occupied as a residence.

Does the regulation affect municipal by-laws?
A review did not uncover any current Ontario municipal by-law that restricts the use of clotheslines. The two kinds of restrictions that do appear to often occur are the restrictive covenants imposed by developers. That said, the regulation would supersede any municipal by-law, existing or proposed, to specifically restrict clotheslines.

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