Is it illegal to wash your car in your driveway in Charlotte? Depends on where you live

Spring is here and pollen is in the air, which means it could be time to give your car a much-needed bath.

But if you live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association, you may want to check their bylaws before unrolling the hose.

A Charlotte resident recently posted to Reddit about a person in their neighborhood giving them “a hard time” for trying to wash their car in a driveway.

“Are there any city ordinances or state laws?” the user asked about the issue.

Here’s what to know about Charlotte laws pertaining to washing your car at home, and whether HOAs can overrule them.

Is it illegal to wash your car in your driveway in Charlotte?

The answer is simple, but the explanation is complicated.

According to the Charlotte Code of Ordinances, “stormwater is the only discharge permitted in the stormwater system or the waters of the state,” but there are some exceptions.

The city permits “allowable incidental discharges of non-stormwater,” so long as the “discharges do not negatively impact surface water quality,” the ordinance says.

“Single-family residential vehicle washing,” or washing your car at home, falls into this category, meaning it is legal to wash your car in your driveway in Charlotte.

Can HOAs ban residential car washing?

While residential car washing is legal under city law, HOAs have the authority to ban it.

“If you buy a home in a deed-restricted community, you’re obligated to abide by those restrictions,” Mike Hunter, an attorney who has represented HOAs for over 30 years, told The Charlotte Observer last year.

Why do HOAs sometimes ban residential car washing?

HOAs typically enforce residential car washing bans due to concerns about run-off flowing into the stormwater system, according to The Helsing Group, a California-based HOA management company.

“Car washing usually involves more than just plain water, allowing soap and other pollutants to flow along with the water,” The Helsing Group says.

“There are also some communities that do not want to burden the cost of common area water for car washing and the restriction exists, or originally existed, for budgetary reasons.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services recommends using a commercial drive-thru or self-service car wash to avoid creating soapy runoff.