Conflict and Compromise Between Homeowners’ Associations and Earth Friendly Living
Earth friendly practices are often in direct conflict with homeowners’ associations (HOAs) due to the desire for HOAs to avoid any activities that may negatively affect property value. HOAs don’t want homeowners to do things on their property that others would find distasteful. Visual appeal is a common desire and HOAs determine what is aesthetically pleasing and what is not. Laundry hanging out to dry and compost bins are considered visually unappealing. Although the conflict exists, there is room for compromise. 
One of the best ways to dry laundry is to hang it outside and let the sunshine do its job. In Maryland as well as many other states, HOAs are not allowed to ban clotheslines. However, many HOAs do not allow permanent clotheslines to be built on their homeowners’ properties, so they need to find a compromise. My HOA’s guidelines state that homeowners are allowed to use umbrella or retractable clotheslines, but the clotheslines must be removed when not in use. Furthermore, the clotheslines must be located as close to the rear of the house as possible and fall within lines defined by the sides of the house. So, although we can hang our laundry out, we must do so only within certain guidelines. It’s a compromise.

The same is true for compost bins. It makes sense that people do not want stinky rotting materials hanging out on people’s properties, but that doesn’t have to be the case. A well-maintained compost pile should not smell and does not have to look unsightly. To compromise on this issue, our HOA has some guidelines in place. First, the location of the compost bin/tumbler must minimize the “look and smell” of the compost bin on neighboring properties. Plants can be installed to further “hide” the compost bin or pile from neighboring properties. 

The compost bin must also be located close to the rear of the house and not be in open or common space. Townhouses are not currently allowed to have compost bins or piles but applications for them are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Lastly, failure to maintain your compost bin is a violation of the maintenance provisions of the covenants. I think these are all reasonable requests on the part of the HOA, so it seems like a good compromise.

For clotheslines and compost bins, paperwork must be filled out indicating the location of the item on the property, the materials it is made of, plantings put into place to screen the structure from other properties, etc. Basically, there are a whole lot of hoops you must jump through to establish earth-friendly habits, but it’s a compromise, so we need to be willing to do our part. 

Clotheslines and compost bins appeal to the sustainability-minded individual; however, they are sometimes considered unsightly by HOAs. To live an earth friendly life within a community governed by an HOA, be sure to learn about and follow the guidelines in place so that everyone is happy. Although conflicts exist, there can be compromise between the two so that we can all practice earth friendly habits. 


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