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Can HOAs prohibit residents from displaying political signs?

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | Condominium & Community Association Law

With another presidential election year in full swing and numerous other candidates running in local, state and congressional races, signs, t-shirts, bumper stickers and more will be everywhere before long.

If you serve as a member of a homeowners’ association, can you prevent your condo complex or neighborhood from becoming overrun with signs – and your relatively peaceful area becoming a hotbed of political disputes between neighbors?

An HOA can prohibit any number of things for the common good and to maintain the appearance of the area – including political signs, banners and flags (just as it can require that Christmas decorations be taken down by a specified date). It’s crucial that the rule be made in accordance with the codified policies and that it’s applied equally to everyone,

It may be helpful to put a reminder in your newsletter, along with a reference to the specific provision in your Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. This helps show that it’s a rule already on the books – and not something the board just came up with.

How an HOA goes about it can make a big difference

There is generally less pushback from residents if the rule about signs is generic. In other words, it’s best to prohibit any signage on the outside of a person’s unit or home, whether it’s on the structure or on the lawn or any walkway or driveway – without reference to political signage. The prohibition should include common areas as well. This can also help keep the peace around sports rivalries.

Be prepared for some residents to insist that their constitutional right to free speech allows them to put any political sign or flag up that they want. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand that the First Amendment applies to protection against government restriction of speech – and even that isn’t absolute.

If you have questions or concerns either before developing a new HOA regulation or in enforcing one you already have, it’s a good idea to get experienced legal guidance. Doing so proactively can help to mitigate concerns down the road.