Election season is here for close to half of U.S. states. Sixty-four legislative special elections have been scheduled in 21 states this year, according to Ballotpedia. As with other election cycles, the subject of regulating political signs and flags in community associations remains at the forefront of discussions between association leaders and residents.

Nine out of 10 condominium and homeowners association residents typically vote in national, state, and local elections, according to the 2020-2021 Homeowner Satisfaction Survey conducted by Zogby Analytics on behalf of the Foundation for Community Association Research. With more than 74.1 million residents living in community associations, according to the Foundation, this represents about 66.7 million voters.

Conversations on political signs and flags in community associations typically center on how they are displayed and their content. Community association boards, managers, and residents must be educated on applicable laws, case law, and their governing documents to regulate political signs or flags appropriately.

While CAI does not have a formal policy on the display of political signs and flags, community association rules should be adaptable and always in compliance with applicable laws. The First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of speech; however, it only applies to government entities and state actors—not to private parties such as community associations. A community association is not a state actor and is therefore able to adopt and enforce restrictions that reasonably regulate political and noncommercial speech within the community unless state laws explicitly declare otherwise.

Laws governing political signs vary from state to state. Rules vary from community to community to reflect the preferences of the homeowners in each neighborhood. Currently, there are 13 states that have statutes regarding signage that communities must follow. If your state does not have an explicit law, be sure to review your association’s governing documents and consult with your community manager and attorney before moving forward.

It is important for community managers and the board to send approved rules through email, upload notices on the community website, and display them on entry signs to encourage compliance, particularly regarding how many days before an election a sign can be put up and how many days after an election a sign must be taken down. CAI calls upon community association homeowner leaders, community managers, residents, and attorneys to review governing documents periodically and work together to create rules that will bring the community closer together.

Community associations should encourage friendly and neighborly conversations on these types of important issues. CAI supports legally sound, fair, and equitable political sign rules and uniform enforcement procedures in community associations. Review CAI’s resources to effectively manage rules and regulations for this issue in your community. Learn more about states that currently have political sign or flag legislation here.

To help community association boards of directors navigate these important conversations, CAI created the Rights & Responsibilities for Better Communities and the Community Association Civility Pledge. We encourage community association boards to adopt these principles and engage these best practices.

Phoebe E. Neseth, Esq.

Phoebe E. Neseth, Esq.

Director of Government and Public Affairs and the College of Community Association Lawyers

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