During political campaigns, disputes over political yard signs can lead to lessons of free speech in America’s neighborhoods. Home owners’ desires to express their political views by planting yard signs may collide with community association boards’ efforts to preserve their communities’ appearance.
Surprisingly, you don’t have a free-speech right to display a campaign yard sign on community association-governed property, according to the National Board of Certification for Community Association Managers. Instead, the home owners association’s governing documents as well as city, county, and state statutes dictate if yard signs are permissible.
“Community association managers are like small-town mayors, with the responsibility to be reasonable and fair while upholding rules. If your community has yard sign regulations, make sure they conform to state and local laws and enforce them consistently,” said Dawn Bauman, executive director of NBC-CAM.
For associations whose covenants don’t currently regulate the display of political signs but are considering it, Bauman urges the following:
- Consult state statute. State law may already regulate such signs.
- Consult local town or county regulations. Some counties regulate the duration and placement of signs.
- Don’t prohibit signs without exception. The right to express political views during campaign season is dearly held. If your association’s rules are content neutral, reasonable, and consistently enforced, there’s less chance of expensive litigation.
- Remind residents of sign rules prior to election season.
- Don’t forcibly remove signs. This is only a last resort, because it will cause hard feelings.
- Approach enforcement in a friendly, neutral manner.
Source: National Board of Certification for Community Association Managers