10/09/2014 05:27 EDT | Updated 12/09/2014 05:59 EST

St-Laurent man threatened with fine for hanging out laundry

An apartment dweller in Montreal's St-Laurent borough was ordered to stop hanging his laundry outside on his balcony or face a $325 fine.

Muhammad Hussain says he's been hanging his laundry out to dry for years. But in September, he received a warning from the borough of St-Laurent warning him he'd be fined if he failed to remove a laundry-drying rack from his balcony.

The warning from the borough says a by-law prohibits hanging out clothes on the balconies of apartment buildings, duplexes or triplexes.

Hussain says the apartment is his own property, and it's none of the borough's business.

"I feel we have basic rights in jeopardy," Hussain said.

Safety first, borough mayor says

According to St-Laurent's borough mayor, Alan deSousa, the by-law is for security reasons.

"You must understand, we have over 20,000 condominium units as well as apartment units in St-Laurent," deSousa told CBC Radio's Homerun. "We try to make sure people have secure evacuation routes, and one of the ways is through the balcony."

Garden furniture and barbecues are allowed, deSousa says, but not  bicycles or other objects, including racks to dry laundry. 

"From our perspective, we just want to make sure safety doesn't become an issue," the mayor said, although he admits it's also a question of aesthetics:

"I've seen carpets thrown over balconies, I have seen clothes-racks thrown over balconies, I've seen sheets thrown over balconies," he said. "Clearly, if you're living in that type of environment with other people, you wouldn't like your neighbours doing that."

 Hussain says despite these rules, he's going to continue to hang clothing on his balcony. 

"We feel very uncomfortable," he said. "We are paying municipal taxes and school taxes, and this is our own property."

Read the warning from the borough here: