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Are HOA Flag Restrictions Legal?

Members of a homeowners association must follow all the rules and regulations set forth by their governing body. The main purpose of these restrictions is to protect property values and the interests of the entire community. However, is it legal for the HOA to regulate or prohibit flags? Here’s what you need to know about HOA flag restrictions.

 

HOA Flag Restrictions: Can HOA Prohibit Flags in Your Community?

An HOA cannot prohibit its homeowners from displaying the U.S. flag on their property. Based on the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, it is illegal for homeowners, condominium, or co-op associations to enforce any policy that restricts or prevents a member’s right to display the U.S. flag on their residential property.

The federal law also includes two considerations. First, the flag must be displayed or used properly in accordance with federal law. Second, the association can place “reasonable restrictions on the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag” to protect its substantial interests.

 

Can HOA Regulate Flags?

regulations | Are HOA Flag Restrictions LegalWhile associations cannot prevent homeowners from displaying the U.S. flag on their properties, they can still implement specific HOA flag rules.

For instance, the HOA may send a notice to homeowners who are not displaying their flags correctly.

According to the U.S. Flag Code:

  • You can only display the flag from sunrise to sunset unless the flag is illuminated at night.
  • You must take down the flag during rain, snow, or storms unless it is an all-weather flag.
  • The flag must not touch the ground or have anything beneath it.
  • The flag should not be displayed in a way that would make it damaged or soiled.
  • You cannot place letters, symbols, insignia, or designs on the flag.
  • Destroy all worn-out flags in a dignified way (i.e. burning).

HOA flag rules can also dictate when, where, or how you can display the flag on your property. In many communities, there are also homeowners association flagpole guidelines in place. For instance, the HOA may regulate the size and location of flagpoles on a homeowner’s property.

 

How Should the HOA Deal with Flag Displays?

The American flag — and all the values it represents — means a lot to many homeowners. As such, HOA flag restrictions can be a very contentious issue. It can lead to tension, fights, or even costly litigation. In order to maintain peace within the community, here are some helpful tips for dealing with flag displays.

 

1. Make Sure HOA Flag Rules Are in the Governing Documents

The association should only enforce flag rules that are stated in the governing documents. Otherwise, the HOA board has no authority to restrict the use or display of any type of flag. If you want to enforce certain flag rules, make sure to amend your governing documents first.

Given how important flags are to some homeowners, the association should also enforce the most reasonable restrictions it can. Do not make your homeowners’ lives harder with unreasonable restrictions. This way, the HOA can look after the interests of both the community at large and individual homeowners.

 

2. Check State and Local Laws

Apart from federal mandates like the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 and the U.S. Flag Code, some states have additional laws for displaying flags and installing flagpoles. For example, in states like Florida, Washington, and Colorado, the law states that flagpoles should be not more than 20 feet high, should not obstruct sightlines at intersections, and should not be installed within or upon an easement.

 

3. Establish Clear Guidelines for Installing Flagpoles

guidelines | can hoa prohibit flagsThe HOA should have clear guidelines on how homeowners can display their flags correctly. Homeowners should know the appropriate size and type for flags and what is considered a reasonable size and height for a flagpole.

Also, the HOA should inform homeowners on how to proceed with installing their flagpoles. For instance, they must first file an application with the architectural review committee. This is to ensure that flagpoles are not installed under water pipes or other important components and that the design does not clash with the overall aesthetics of the community.

 

4. Avoid Selective Enforcement of HOA Flag Rules

If the community allows other types of flags, make sure to enforce the rules fairly and uniformly. You cannot allow homeowners to display holiday flags and at the same time, send notices of removal to homeowners who display the rainbow flag. The latter may be considered as discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, which could lead to potential litigation.

 

What About HOA Political Flags and Banners?

Unlike the American flag, the HOA has the authority to restrict homeowners from displaying political signs, banners, or flags. Homeowners who want to display political materials will often cite the First Amendment. This prevents federal, state, and local governments from stifling one’s freedom of speech.

However, an association is not a government entity. The First Amendment does not influence HOA governance. Also, keep in mind that everyone who joins an HOA signs a contract. If the governing documents prohibit the display of political paraphernalia, homeowners must abide by these restrictions.

If the HOA wants to accommodate the political beliefs and affiliations of homeowners, the board can implement specific rules when it comes to displaying political signs. Here are some examples.

  1. Political signs can only be displayed 45 days prior to an election. They must be removed a week after the election.
  2. Political signs must remain respectful. They cannot contain any profanity or foul messages.
  3. Homeowners can only x number of signs in their property.
  4. Political signs must not create obstructions and other safety hazards.
  5. Political signs should be within the homeowner’s property limits.

As with other HOA restrictions, make sure that these rules are clearly outlined in the governing documents. The board should implement these rules consistently and uniformly to avoid problems with homeowners.

 

Harmoniously Working With and Around HOA Flag Restrictions

The HOA board has great power but they must exercise this power responsibly. They should ensure that the entire community abides by federal, state, and local laws, as well as the governing documents. When it comes to flags, HOAs must be able to find a harmonious balance with following the law, protecting the interests of the community, and providing homeowners with a means to express themselves.

 

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