Sunday, June 26, 2022

Hoa Homefront: Flags and Banners, How Big Is Too Big?

Q: Under Civil Code 4515, are homeowners allowed to post community gathering notices near the mailbox or on the mailbox if they are not blocking the association notice? Our board removed such notices. Other than small claims court, how does one address this issue? I asked for a message board, but that has been declined. I am now seeking guidance to alert communities to the implications of this rule. — DV, San Diego

A: The Davis-Sterling Act has some “free speech” clauses, one of which is Civil Code Section 4515, added in 2018. Among other things, it protects the right of owners to “canvas and petition” members and residents, and distribute information to them “in a reasonable time and in an appropriate manner.”

For example, the statute does not give members the right to use the HOA bulletin board or access the HOA website. The implication of the law is that it protects the right of members to go door-to-door to pass on literature.

HOAs typically have limited bulletin board space for posting board agendas and announcements and also do not have enough space to allow all members to post their personal bulletin items. Also, in sending flyers or literature, avoid using official US mail post boxes or attaching anything to them because federal law has prohibited anything other than official US mail in mailboxes since the 1930s.

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Question: What are the laws regarding the hoisting of flags and banners from the balconies of the outdoor courtyard? I have a neighbor who is waving two flags. Our HOA has not adopted a size restriction, nor has they adopted a rule stating that only one flag is allowed to be flown. Do current state and federal laws restrict the number of flags to be flown from balconies? What kind of flags can be flown? What material and size? How should they be displayed? When should they be flown? How many flags can be flown per family? — SK, Coronado

A: Non-commercial signs and banners are protected and may be displayed at or inside the member’s residence under section 4710 of the Civil Code.

The content of the flag cannot be regulated as long as it is non-commercial, but there are limits to the location, size and material used in such displays. Signs or posters are limited to nine square feet and flags or banners are limited to 15 square feet. These displays can be posted in a “different interest” yard, door, window, balcony or exterior wall.

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However, condominium yards are often not part of the unit and are therefore not part of a “separate interest”. There is no limit to the number of displays, but they cannot be made of lights, building materials, plant materials, or balloons.

An unprofessional display isn’t limited by time or weather, so I still get the occasional complaint about someone’s 2020 presidential campaign signs. While it may be out of date, if it’s non-commercial and otherwise conforms to the limits, that’s fine.

The American flag is separately protected by Civil Code 4705.

Although you have a legal right here, be reasonable about your use of that right and take care of your neighbors. Don’t irritate their eyes when you express yourself.

Kelly G. Richardson, Esq. He is a Fellow of the Community Association College of Lawyers, and Richardson is a partner of Ober Denicillo LLP, a California law firm best known for community association advice. Submit a question to kelly@rodllp.com

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