A resident told to take down a political candidate sign suspects it’s due to the candidate more than the sign. Do political signs have any constitutional protection?
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: Our homeowners association told us we must remove the lawn sign supporting our favored politician, or we will be fined. This does not feel right to us, and we think it is due to a board member not liking our candidate. Is this even constitutional? – Katherine
Answer: I get this question every few years as the election cycle heats up, and people want to show their support. With politics being what it is, there are bound to be feelings for your choice and against the opposite candidate. People like to show their support, often wearing hats and t-shirts, putting stickers on their cars, and signs on their lawns. The First Amendment to the Constitution, and most state constitutions, protect us from the government restricting political expression.
However, although a community association can often feel governmental, it is a private organization that its members join by voluntarily buying property in the community. When someone purchases their home within a condominium or other community association, they agree to the contractual restrictions that govern the community.
This is one of the many reasons to review a prospective property’s declaration and restrictions before buying in that community.
Your association’s leadership must also follow the rules you agreed to abide by. A board member, or even the entire board, cannot make new rules without following the correct procedures, often including a membership vote.
The letter you received is not enforceable if the rules do not ban yard signs. Community rules must be uniformly applied, and they cannot ban signs from one candidate while allowing another. This also means that all yard signs must be banned, not just political ones.
Either signs are acceptable in your community – be they for a politician, a sports team, or a garage sale – or they are not. The board may not pick and choose.
If you do not live in a community association or your association does not have these restrictions, you may place signs that follow local and state laws. A 30-foot billboard is a no-go, while a typical yard sign would be okay.
Finally, remember that no matter how much you hate the opposing candidate or sports team, taking down your neighbor’s offending sign is illegal.
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