Every Four Years
Every four years it happens, and we prepare ourselves. We find ourselves bracing for an onslaught of political ads on television, plastered on billboards, stuck to bumpers, printed on T-shirts, written across bare-bellies walking down the street and even written across the sky. While displays of political preference are always a point of conversation, during election years, and especially as election day approaches, the topic becomes much more top-of-mind. It is worth noting that, seemingly, both the quantity and intensity of these ads have increased in recent years. Never to be outdone, 2020 promises to be quite a ride. So with all of the stress and discomfort that the political climate can induce, some are left asking, do these displays of political support belong in our communities?
The Problem? Some would argue that a street where the lawns are covered in political slogans and signs touting one candidate or another takes away from the overall aesthetic of the neighborhood, something that the HOA has a vested interest in upholding. Some suggest that the presence of these signs, and the clear expression of the political views of residence can create a tense environment, potentially putting one neighbor against another, disturbing the peace within the community, and negatively affecting the lives of those who inhabit it. Because of these reasons, among others, some associations seek to eliminate political signage from their streets.
What are the Rules?
Really, it is up to the state. While your association may be very clear in its wording as to whether or not such signs are allowed, it is actually the state that has the final say. States likeTexas and Washington have put forth legislation preventing HOAs from prohibiting signs that promote a specific politician or ballot measure. However, it is important to note that these signs, while they cannot be outright banned, can be regulated. So what does that mean, exactly? Well, Your HOA may not be able to tell you that you cannot place a sign of support for your chosen candidate in your yard, but they CAN require that it does not contain language or imagery that would be considered to be offensive to the average person. They may also be able to set strict parameters around the size, number of signs on your property, as well as their placement and the way in which they are affixed.
But it’s my Right, isn’t it?
What about signs that express support for a movement, idea or form of activism, rather than a specific politician. This can get a bit more confusing. In Colorado, the state law deems that HOAs cannot ban political signs, but they can develop rules regarding any other type of sign. In Erie, Colorado, 30 or so residents of the Erie Village neighborhood received notices stating that their yard signs, all containing messages promoting social justice/activism, be immediately removed from their yards or they would incur fees. Kristi Shot, one community member that received such a warning told a local news outlet that felt that the association’s choice to single out these signs was, “outrageous.” She went on to explain that other neighbors had placed a variety of signs in their yards, including signs celebrating recent graduates and signs for security companies, among others, but that only the community members who displayed signs supporting Black Lives Matter or other unity signs were asked to remove them. When the president of the HOA was asked about the decision, he claimed that he was also upset by this and placed the blame on the management company. After receiving such negative attention, the management company decided to suspend any fines associated with the sins until December 1st.
Do your research and, this time, you may have to dig a bit deeper. It is important to know what your individual state has put forth, in terms of edicts surrounding political signage, in addition to the regulations written into the documents that govern your HOA. If you find yourself at odds with your association, it could be useful to know how other associations in your state have handled such matters.
Maas, Brain, and Katie Weis. “Residents Appalled After HOA Orders Removal Of BLM Yard Signs.” CBS Denver, 24 Sept. 2020, 11:16am, Residents Appalled After HOA Orders Removal Of BLM Yard Signs.