Over the years, strange laws have made their way into the statutes of many states. Over time, the original or initial purpose of the law may cease to exist, while no one ever suggests taking the irrelevant law off the books. This is often how bizarre, unusual, and sometimes downright funny laws end up remaining in effect for decades after their purpose no longer exists. This is as true in real estate law as in any other legal category. So before you set out to buy that new home or build that office building, you may want to do a little research or contact a lawyer who knows what strange requirements you may face. Here is a shortlist of unusual real estate laws that are still in effect in America to get you started.
Did you know that it is illegal to perform a comedy sketch, hold a dance recital, or put on a puppet show in a window of your apartment or home in New York City? It is unclear what the writers of this law were trying to prevent. It may be that they didn’t want crowds of onlookers to gather and clog up busy city streets. Or perhaps the legislators wanted to control how people made money from their homes. We may never know. But in the meantime, if you live in New York, you may want to keep live entertainment outside of the home and in a proper theatre.
Girls, Girls, Girls—But Not in the Same House
Surprisingly, some states limit the number of women who can live in the same house or apartment. There are no such laws for men. And shockingly, the laws prohibiting groups of women from living together do not make any exceptions for related family members! Here’s a short list of some states and their female cohabitation limitations:
- Ohio: No more than four women are legally allowed to live together.
- Arkansas: Allows only up to five females in one dwelling without breaking the law.
- Tennessee: Allows up to eight women to live together.
- Pennsylvania: No more than 16 women can share a living space.
It appears that the initial intent of these laws was to curtail the establishment of brothels. While that may be understandable in a different era where brothels were commonplace, why would these laws still be in effect today? We suppose if you live in Ohio and want a big family, you had better hope for boys. If you have a wife and more than three girls, you may have to relocate, buy a second home for your additional daughters to live in, or risk breaking the law. And if you want to start a sorority or simply share living expenses with several female roommates, you might want to check your state laws first to make sure you don’t get accused of participating in a brothel.
At least two states have laws regarding what types of fences you can put up on your property. The common American dream cliche involves getting a good job, starting a family, and buying a home complete with a white picket fence. But not in Scranton, Pennsylvania! In Scranton, it is illegal to install any fence that has pointed ends. This is true regardless of the material used to build the fence, including wooden picket fences.
And in Rhode Island, any fence over six feet tall is considered a “spite” fence and dubbed a nuisance. However, there is some wiggle room. The law specifies that fences must “unnecessarily exceed six feet in height” to be illegal. So if you are over six feet tall, you could likely argue that your privacy fence must be over six feet, or you won’t get your privacy. But for everyone else, putting up a fence that your neighbor thinks is spiteful may result in a petition to recover damages.
To Flush, or Not to Flush
In our state of Washington, you might want to check the laws before building your home. In the small community on Waldron Island, people are interested in maintaining their remote existence. There is no airport, and no ferry boat will get you there either. The self-reliant residents have isolated themselves on their peace-filled little island, and they seem to like it that way. And whether the purpose is keeping the population down or conserving water, on Waldron Island, it is illegal to put more than two toilets that use potable water in any building. This applies to commercial as well as residential buildings unless the enterprise can convince officials that the additional toilets will not jeopardize the water supply. So if you are dreaming of that four-bedroom, four-bath home, you will need to build it elsewhere.
Snowball’s Chance in Aspen
Many people like to live in and visit Aspen, Colorado, to enjoy the scenic snow-capped mountains and winter wonderland. However, if your family is considering visiting Aspen with snow-filled dreams that include a spirited snowball fight—you may need to visit a neighboring city. Oh, they can build snowmen and snow forts, but throwing a snowball at another person or their property is illegal in Aspen. In all fairness, this Aspen law prohibits throwing any object at a person or their property. The legislature likely created it to curtail assaults from flying rocks or slingshots. But the law explicitly includes snowballs in its prohibitions.
Massachusetts has some interestingly curious rules about bedtime activities. For instance, did you know that it is against the law to snore with your windows open there? If you have a snoring issue, the law mandates that you close and lock all your windows before going to sleep. Massachusetts also has a law on the books that makes it illegal to go to bed without bathing first! These rules are certainly head-scratchers. And we have no statistics on enforcement or if police have ever cited anyone for transgressing such laws.
We Are Your Real Estate Professionals
While this list is somewhat funny, the truth is that real estate laws exist that the average person does not know about. The experienced attorneys at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., are well-versed in the intricacies of real estate law covering all of Washington State. We have done property law for decades, and we have the answers when you have real estate questions. So call us or contact us online today to set up your initial consultation. We look forward to serving your legal needs now and into the future.