2012 is an election year, and it’s sure to be a big one. Election cycles always bring with them intense feelings of patriotism and of activism; it’s a great time to get involved with our government, and to celebrate the free speech regulations that allow all of us to speak our mind. However, election cycles also tend to bring hurt feelings, hostility, and inflammatory rhetoric—all potential issues for your HOA. So what are the HOA Rules for Political Signs and how will they impact your community?
Many HOAs will likely struggle with the issue of political signage in the coming months. Is it okay for residents to place whatever kind of politically-charged signs they like, in their windows or on their front yard? What about signs that offend or hurt the feelings of other residents? When does it all become too much—and when can the HOA intervene?
It might surprise you to learn that HOA rules for political signs holds no “free speech” stipulation that prohibits community associations from regulating this signage. With that said, the first step any HOA should take is to check with the local and state governments. In some states, it is permissible for community boards to dictate political sign rules, but in other states, the HOA is not legally allows to govern political expression among residents.
Even if your HOA is allowed to pass rules about signs, there are some serious issues you should think about before making any kind of decision.
- One is that, if there is nothing in your governing documents about political signs, enforcement is going to put you in a very tricky place—and it’s probably not a place you’ll want to be in.
- Second, simply deciding what does and does not constitute a political sign can be vexing; a sign advocating a particular candidate is obviously political in nature, but what about a peace sign?
- Finally, you don’t ever want to be in a place where you’re forcibly removing signs from residents’ yards. That will cause goodwill between residents and the board to deteriorate in a hurry—and frankly, that relationship may never recover.
All of this is to say that seeking to prohibit political signs, among residents, is a bit like opening a Pandora’s Box. If there are already rules in your community charter, stipulating size or positioning of yard signs, that’s something you can work with—but otherwise, it might be more prudent to seek to foster a civil and friendly community, without resorting to a ban on political expression.