ABOUT REAL ESTATE: Whacky Laws Affect Homeowners in Every State

  • By David W. Myers, King Features Syndicate
David W. Myers

David W. Myers
A man’s home may be his castle, but the government is sill king when deciding what he can and cannot do while he lives there.

DEAR MR. MYERS: We are newcomers to Arizona and would like to remove a 20-foot-tall Saguaro cactus from our back yard. A neighbor told us that we’d have to get a government permit first. Is this true?

ANSWER: Yes, it’s true. The cactus blossom of the mighty Saguaro is Arizona’s official state flower and you must get a permit from the state’s Agriculture Department to remove it.

The Saguaro was once endangered, so the law requiring the permit makes sense. But a check of several internet web sites suggests that every state has whacky laws or municipal ordinances that dictate what Americans can or cannot do in and around their own homes, even though many of the laws are no longer enforced.

In Mobile, Alabama, it’s illegal for pigeons to eat pebbles from a composite roof. Homeowners who feed them from such a rooftop can become real-life jailbirds.

You can shoot a bear if he rambles onto your property in Alaska, but you can’t wake one up to take his picture.  In Arkansas, you can be cited for mispronouncing the state’s name.

Out in Los Angeles, it’s OK for a husband to beat his wife with a belt in their bedroom, provided that the belt is less than two-inches wide. He can use a broader strap, but only if the spouse approves.

Denver authorities won’t let you lend your vacuum cleaner to a neighbor. Homeowners in Guilford, Conn., can display only white lights on their house at Christmas. Mobile homes are illegal in Fenwick Island, Del.

State lawmakers can’t seem to pass balanced budgets, but they sure like to protect animals. Founding Fathers in Florida banned sex with a porcupine (ouch!), even in the privacy of a bedroom. You cannot keep a donkey in a bathtub if you live in Georgia.

In Honolulu, it’s illegal to sing loudly in your yard or a public place after sunset.  And even if you live next to a stream or lake in idyllic Idaho, the state won’t let you fish … if you’re sitting on a camel.

Chicagoans can’t eat in a home or restaurant if the place is on fire. If you eat garlic for lunch or dinner, you can’t go to a movie theater until four hours later if you live in Gary, Ind.

Iowa homeowners who have pet monkeys can’t let their chimps smoke cigarettes.  You can’t cook up a snake in your kitchen on a Sunday if you live in Kansas.

In Kentucky, you need a license to walk around nude in your own abode.

Louisiana state law specially allows homeowners and their offspring “to grow as tall as they like.” It’s illegal to leave your holiday lights up after Jan. 14 in Maine.

State law in Maryland strictly prohibits homeowners from taking a pet lion to a movie theater. You can’t snore with the bedroom windows open in Massachusetts.

It’s illegal for a man to smooch his wife in their home on a Sunday in Michigan. An old law that’s still on the books in Minnesota says kids under the age of 12 can’t use a home-phone without adult supervision.

Unmarried couples who live together and have sex in Mississippi face a $500 fine and six months in jail. State law in Missouri allows any city to levy a tax on garage bands, provided that the local mayor “plays piccolo and each band member can eat peas with a knife.”

Dogs can’t get within four feet of a fire hydrant in Sheridan, Mont. Homeowners in Nebraska can be arrested if their kid burps in Church, but not if they belch in their own home.

The economy in Nevada is tough, but state law makes it illegal for owners to pawn their dentures to make their mortgage payments.  New Hampshire bans using the toilet on Sundays while looking up.

Property owners can’t paint their house on Sundays in New Jersey. In White Horse, N.M., a woman can’t eat onions in her house on Sabbath and then walk the streets unless she’s trailed by her spouse who must “follow 20 paces behind, carrying a loaded musket over his left shoulder.”

Men with poor taste in clothing probably don’t want to live in Carmel, New York, where it’s illegal to leave a house with pants and a shirt that do not match. It’s against the law to sing-out-of-tune in North Carolina.

Homeowners can’t sleep in their shoes in North Dakota, while women can’t legally sport patent-leather footwear outside of their house if they live in Ohio.

Owners of aquariums should beware if they live in Oklahoma: State law says you can’t get your fish drunk. It’s illegal to buy or sell marijuana in Oregon, but it’s OK to smoke it in your home.

It’s a misdemeanor to sing in a bathtub in Pennsylvania. You’ll face up to 20 years in prison if you bite off a neighbor’s leg in Rhode Island.

Firefighters in Charleston, South Carolina, can blow up your home if they need to create a firebreak. In South Dakota, farmers and other property owners can set off otherwise illegal explosives if they have a sunflower field.

You can’t throw bottles at a tree in your yard in Bell Buckle, Tenn. Sitting on the sidewalk in front of your house in Galveston, Texas, can result in a $500 fine; tossing snowballs with your kids can cost you $50 in Provo, Utah.

All residents in Barre, Vt., must bath every Saturday night. Owners in rural Virginian can’t shine a spotlight on their chicken coop if it causes the poultry to panic.

It’s illegal for someone to set fire to your home in Seattle, unless you give them permission first. You can’t whistle underwater in your tub or pool if you live in West Virginia.

Screens are required on all windows from May through October in Hudson, Wisc. And in Wyoming, it’s illegal to take a shower on Wednesday or to take a picture of a rabbit in your back yard in June.

* * *
Our booklet, “Straight Talk About Living Trusts,” explains how even low- and middle-income homeowners can now reap the same benefits that creating an inexpensive trust once provided only to the wealthiest families. For a copy, send $4 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to David Myers/Trust, P.O. Box 2960, Culver City, CA 90231-2960. Send questions to that same address and we’ll try to respond in a future column.   Editor’s Note: David W. Myers and David M. Kinchen of HNN worked at the real estate section of the Los Angeles Times for several years.

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