HOAs and political signs

Date Published : Jun-05-2024

Written By : Kim Brown

Few things divide a community the way politics do, and considering 2024 is a U.S. presidential election year, HOAs might already be thinking about strategies to minimize conflicts between neighbors.

   

Download our free political sign policy template

   

Signage policies, and in this specific case, political yard sign policies, can help to ease tensions within homeowners associations as they provide clear instructions to members as to how they can use signs to show their support while still respecting others in the community.

While political preferences may differ within the development, rules are the same for everyone.

   

Table of contents

   

Can HOAs prevent owners from displaying political signs?

While it may come as a surprise, HOAs may have the authority to ban political signs completely, depending on where they are located. Virginia, Kansas and Pennsylvania permit HOAs in those states to outlaw the display of political signs. However, they do have the option to let owners put political signs on their lawns if they choose to do so.  

Conversely, states like New Jersey, Texas, California and Arizona, have laws that prohibit HOAs from banning political signs. Associations can instead regulate political signs, including where owners can display them and how many they can have on their property at one time.  

State and local laws eclipse governing documents, so always check them first if your association needs to create or amend a policy.

   

By restricting political signs, aren’t HOAs interfering with freedom of speech?

Some owners may feel like their First Amendment rights are being jeopardized when associations create rules that place limits on political signs.

But the First Amendment limits federal, state, and local governments from doing things that restrain freedom of speech. HOAs are not a part of the government. They are considered private entities, even though they are non-profit organizations in most cases. Therefore, the First Amendment, by itself, does not apply to your HOA when it comes to restricting political signs.

Furthermore, limits or bans on political signs were probably in place before owners purchased their homes. As a party to a binding agreement with the HOA, they agreed to adhere to the rules and regulations imposed by the association, including rules about signs.

   

Objective of a signage policy

Policies that address political yard signs may seem tedious and overbearing. But since political matters can create real conflict within neighborhoods, associations cannot simply stand back and watch owners engage in sign wars.

By adopting a policy, the HOA aims to create a balance between individual (and sometimes incompatible) interests.

   

Points to consider when creating a policy for political signs

Below are some items to include when creating a political signage policy. Note that since political signs can come in the form of a flag, HOAs should address flags in a combined or separate policy.  

   

Messaging

Owners must ensure that all images and copy on the signs are free of offensive language and explicit imagery. Official lawn signs offered by the candidate’s campaign are almost always safe choices. Associations may ask that signs only come from the candidate’s campaign. The signs may include the candidate’s name, slogan, and the position for which they hope to win.

   

Design standards

Associations are encouraged to incorporate some rules about the aesthetics of political signs. Handwritten posters, and signs accompanied by music or flashing lights could be considered violations of signage regulations. Again, requiring owners to obtain official campaign signs reduces potential signage issues.

   

Size

Signs that are too large can be disruptive and potentially dangerous if a big gust of wind hits the community. Having a rule about appropriate sign dimensions will prevent this from becoming an issue before it happens.

   

Quantity

The association may determine that one sign per home is enough. Whatever number the board decides on, just make sure there is a cap on how many signs are allowed. Without a limit, you can guarantee that there will be at least one individual who decorates their lawn with dozens of signs to demonstrate their support.

   

Location

Front lawns, balconies and windows are generally considered reasonable places to display political signs, provided governing documents don’t say otherwise. Roofs and sides of homes are less acceptable.

Cars can present some uncertainty for HOAs. While less common, there have been instances where an owner puts a political sticker on their bumper, or places a political sign in their car window. Successful arguments were made for and against using vehicles for political expression. Some said associations could not regulate what owners put on their cars if they were not commercial vehicles, while others asserted that the same political signage rules apply to personal vehicles as they do to properties within the association. To avoid confusion and ambiguity, HOAs should address vehicles and political signs somewhere in the policy.   

Common areas are neutral zones and should be treated as such. Common areas include lobbies, business centers, gyms, laundry rooms, clubhouses, and any other shared spaces.

Common areas are maintained by the association, meaning every member pays the maintenance costs. These spaces belong to everyone in the development, and it would be unfair to allow individuals to express personal views or opinions in a community-owned area.  

Civic engagement postings on bulletin boards may be allowed if they are not advocating for a specific party or cause. For example, posting a sign that encourages members to vote could be permitted.

   

Duration of time

Much like seasonal decorations, you don’t want election signs hanging around weeks after the event has passed. Set a reasonable timeframe for how long signs can be displayed before an election date, and how long they have after the election to remove them.  

   

Making sure everyone knows the rules

Like any covenant, bylaw or rule, HOA owners must know about the association’s political yard sign policies in order to properly comply with them.  

Boards and managers are encouraged to use multiple communication channels to share important information, including governing documents, forms and policies. Depending on the resources available to the HOA, management could use two or more of the following options to distribute a political signage policy:

Select the options that align with your community’s preferences. By sharing the news using two or three different methods, you increase the number of owners who will see and read the policy.

If you use an HOA management software, you can even add a copy of the most up-to-date policy in the File Library where any owner can view the document at their convenience.

Since elections don’t occur often, it may be helpful to share and/or update the policy every year there is a U.S. presidential election.

   

Conclusion

The majority of HOAs see the importance of giving owners the ability to express their political support. Creating a political signage policy can help associations maintain peace by establishing limits and boundaries without stifling political expression.   

Download Template

Download our free political yard sign policy template

Let us bring the answers to you.

We’ll make sure the leading HOA/condo news, trends and tips get to you first.

Protected by reCAPTCHA.
Confidential and Secure.
Privacy Policy

Useful Resources

Related Content

Answers to 10 common questions about POAs

If you’ve ever looked up information about a property owners association (POA), you might have seen the term being used interchangeably with HOA (homeowner association). While there are some similarities, POAs and HOAs are not the same thing.     Table of contents     What is a POA, anyway? A POA is an organization that governs […]

View More →

HOA summer fun: Keeping activities enjoyable and safe

Summer brings out the best in people. The warm weather and long days make outdoor activities far more attractive, and make burgers, hotdogs and corn taste better. Once Memorial Day hits, many HOAs witness a renewed energy in their communities.  Owners hang out by the pool, prepare dinner on the grill, or work up a […]

View More →

HOAs and golf courses

Imagine living 10 minutes away from your favorite golf course. Not only could you sleep in a little bit later if you have an early tee time, but you could probably play multiple rounds in a single day.  Plus, there won’t be any debate about who will be hosting weekend get-togethers. Your friends will happily […]

View More →