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Subject: Political signs in Florida?
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Author Messages
BryanG1
(Florida)

Posts:43


10/19/2008 4:01 PM  
When I drove around our neighborhood last week, I noticed quite a few yards with political signs in them. As our CC&R only allows for sale signs, I decided to go ahead and send a letter out to all of those that had political signs in their yards. Before doing so, I double checked our CC&R and also Florida Statutes regarding the matter, and could not find anything that said you could.

But I got a call tonight from the Secretary stating that the board went through the same thing in 2004 with political signs but were told that there was some law that allowed it, although he couldn't quote the law.

I researched it again, and am still not able to find anything...I did find several articles stating that people in deed restricted communities could *not* put signs up, but nothing saying that they could.

As an example, one article reads:
"Cities and counties are creations of government. HOAs are really a creation of contract," said Robert Taylor, a partner with Taylor & Carls, an Orlando firm that represents homeowner associations. "If you sign a contract that says you won't have any signs, you cannot put up any sign."

Does anyone know if there is a law in Florida that says they can? And, if so, where can I find it?

Thanks in advance.
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


10/19/2008 4:15 PM  

Bryan,

If the governing documents say NO SIGNS, that means no signs, period. It doesn't matter if municipalities or countys allow them , the governing documents are the ruling factor.
BryanG1
(Florida)

Posts:43


10/19/2008 7:03 PM  
The same could be said for flags and flagpoles, but the state recently passed laws allowing them and overriding HOA's regarding their rules on them:

(2)(a) Any homeowner may display one portable, removable United States flag or official flag of the State of Florida in a respectful manner, and one portable, removable official flag, in a respectful manner, not larger than 41/2 feet by 6 feet, which represents the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, or a POW-MIA flag, regardless of any covenants, restrictions, bylaws, rules, or requirements of the association.

(b) Any homeowner may erect a freestanding flagpole no more than 20 feet high on any portion of the homeowner's real property, regardless of any covenants, restrictions, bylaws, rules, or requirements of the association, if the flagpole does not obstruct sightlines at intersections and is not erected within or upon an easement. The homeowner may further display in a respectful manner from that flagpole, regardless of any covenants, restrictions, bylaws, rules, or requirements of the association, one official United States flag, not larger than 41/2 feet by 6 feet, and may additionally display one official flag of the State of Florida or the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, or a POW-MIA flag. Such additional flag must be equal in size to or smaller than the United States flag.

But, I haven't been able to find anything specific that allows political signs.

GeorgerwilliamsW
(Indiana)

Posts:975


10/20/2008 3:56 AM  
Posted By DonnaS on 10/19/2008 4:15 PM

Bryan,

If the governing documents say NO SIGNS, that means no signs, period. It doesn't matter if municipalities or countys allow them , the governing documents are the ruling factor.
It is this kind of thinking that leads state legislators to overrule covenant restriction. Keep in mind that prohibiting political signs treads on bread-and-butter issues for politicians.

Also, were I facing a legal challenge to covenant restrictions, as a board member (such as the Twin Rivers case) I would have to carefully consider the legal costs of defending the association in a lawsuit in an unsettled area of the law. Despite what the covenants specify, is an expenditure of that nature to uphold a somewhat questionable restriction on individual free speech worth it? We are talking here of legal fees at least $10,000 and more like $50,000 plus.

While those fees could be recovered from the plaintiff, such a court case could lead to legislative action nullifying covenant restrictions making such an expenditure ineffective.

The more I consider this issue, the more I think it is reasonable for an association to set reasonable limits on political expressions such as yard signs, rather than an absolute prohibition, despite what the covenants specify.

I would much rather defend in court a well reasoned association policy that regulates political signage, despite an absolute prohibition in the covenants, (and particularly in an unsettle area of law that could stimulate contrary legislative action) than I would defend an absolute prohibition.

Absolute prohibitions are not wise policy.
RenaeW1


Posts:0


10/20/2008 5:45 AM  
If you allow election signs, be prepared to allow any kind of sign: "Pigs for Sale", "Room for Rent", "Pro or Anti-Abortion", "I support the Confederate Flag", and on and on and on.
GeorgerwilliamsW
(Indiana)

Posts:975


10/20/2008 5:54 AM  
Posted By RenaeW1 on 10/20/2008 5:45 AM
If you allow election signs, be prepared to allow any kind of sign: "Pigs for Sale", "Room for Rent", "Pro or Anti-Abortion", "I support the Confederate Flag", and on and on and on.
Not necessarily. Political speech in both public policy and in opinions of the U. S. Supreme Court is of a different character than other forms of speech. In its seminal 1994 ruling the court has held that local municipalities may not prohibit or regulate political signs on private property even though it may prohibit or regulate commercial or other signs.

Clearly, the association does not want to get into the area of determining that some political expression is permissible while others are not.

This is very much an unsettled area of law.
GeorgerwilliamsW
(Indiana)

Posts:975


10/20/2008 6:03 AM  
If you are interested, here is a summary of the Supreme Court's CITY OF LADUE,v. MARGARET P. GILLEO 92-1856. This case deals with a municipality, not a homeowners association. It remains to be seen if the Court would extend this reasoning to homeowners associations, particularly given the Twin Rivers decision.

Date Decided: June 13, 1994

Issue: Freedom of Speech -- Whether the government may constitutionally prohibit homeowners from displaying virtually all signs on their property.

Vote: No, 9-0

Facts: An ordinance in Ladue, Missouri, prohibited homeowners from displaying all signs on their property except residence identification signs, "for sale" signs, and signs warning of safety hazards. A homeowner displayed a letter-sized sign stating "For Peace in the Gulf" and challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance. The district and appellate courts held that the ordinance violated the First Amendment.

Legal Principles at Issue: While governments may regulate the physical characteristics of signs, they may not allow some signs and ban others based upon their content. Nor may governments ban all signs and foreclose an important form of communication. Metromedia v. San Diego, 453 U.S. 490 (1981).

Legal Basis for Decision: The Court agreed, holding that although the government may regulate the physical characteristics of signs, the First Amendment prohibits content-based regulation. Ladue's ordinance was simply too broad and it effectively eliminated one avenue of speech.

RenaeW1


Posts:0


10/20/2008 6:13 AM  


That's my point exactly. If you allow election signs, you have to allow all signs. You can't pick and choose which ones you will allow. That's selective enforcement.
RenaeW1


Posts:0


10/20/2008 6:18 AM  
Posted By RenaeW1 on 10/20/2008 6:13 AM


That's my point exactly. If you allow election signs, you have to allow all signs. You can't pick and choose which ones you will allow. That's selective enforcement.




George, this is the quote I was talking about. It didn't show up in my post above.

"Clearly, the association does not want to get into the area of determining that some political expression is permissible while others are not."
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


10/20/2008 6:24 AM  

Renae,
That's exactly right. In 2004, Florida had a vote on "right to life and Stem cell use that was on the balllots. One of our residents-- a Dr., had a monster sign put into his yard with a dead baby with a red line thru it. GROSS!!. We had to almost burn the darn thing down to force him to remove it. This is a perfect example why we have the NO SIGNS OF ANY TYPE covenant.
GeorgerwilliamsW
(Indiana)

Posts:975


10/20/2008 6:31 AM  
I don't want to belabor the point, but the issue here is whether covenants can properly allow for for sale signs and prohibit all other signs. In 1994 the Court say municipalities could not do so.

All it would take is a determined homeowner and the ACLU to invalidate a lot of covenants. A better approach, it seems to me, are reasonable regulations as to the time, manner, and place of political signs in a covenant neighborhood, rather than seeking to enforce a covenant prohibition that may lead to an expensive court case or to state legislation that would further limit the powers of associations.
DwightT
(Idaho)

Posts:664


10/20/2008 8:34 AM  
A couple of fairly recent news stories on this topic:

Homeowners not allowed to post political signs
This was in Charlotte County, FL.

"Baby Killer" Yard Sign Upsets Neighbors
This one was in Ankeny, IA.

I think the last line of the IA story kind of says it all. She will take down her sign, but only if everyone in the subdivision is required to take down their signs as well. If you are going to allow campaign signs, then you are going to have a hard time restricting any other type of sign.
MicheleD
(Kentucky)

Posts:4491


10/20/2008 9:05 AM  
George, again, I have a strong sense (gut feeling) that you are simply pushing an agenda.

Political signs can be restricted by HOAs' governing documents in many states and communities.

Several challenges have come up in our area over the years, and all of the challenges of which I am aware were dropped before going to court with the various residents removing the signs.

However, because the MEDIA can make a huge deal out of this sort of thing and fan the flames of continued anti-HOA rhetoric, many HOAs (ours included) are amending their documents to allow political signs within certain time frames before and after an election.

GeorgerwilliamsW
(Indiana)

Posts:975


10/20/2008 9:08 AM  
Posted By DwightT on 10/20/2008 8:34 AM
A couple of fairly recent news stories on this topic:

Homeowners not allowed to post political signs
This was in Charlotte County, FL.

"Baby Killer" Yard Sign Upsets Neighbors
This one was in Ankeny, IA.

I think the last line of the IA story kind of says it all. She will take down her sign, but only if everyone in the subdivision is required to take down their signs as well. If you are going to allow campaign signs, then you are going to have a hard time restricting any other type of sign.
Oh, but another relevant quotation from the article is, "Despite the rules, nobody raised a fuss over her other sign, supporting McCain. In fact, signs in the neighborhood point to a majority of Republican supporters -- even Tesdall."

This may be more an instance of an association seeking to regulate the content of political speech, not the sign itself.
BryanG1
(Florida)

Posts:43


10/20/2008 9:10 AM  
Posted By GeorgerwilliamsW on 10/20/2008 6:03 AM
If you are interested, here is a summary of the Supreme Court's CITY OF LADUE,v. MARGARET P. GILLEO 92-1856. This case deals with a municipality, not a homeowners association. It remains to be seen if the Court would extend this reasoning to homeowners associations, particularly given the Twin Rivers decision.

Date Decided: June 13, 1994

Issue: Freedom of Speech -- Whether the government may constitutionally prohibit homeowners from displaying virtually all signs on their property.

Vote: No, 9-0




The key word there being Government. HOA's are different.
DwightT
(Idaho)

Posts:664


10/20/2008 9:17 AM  
Now you've really lost me. How could that be regulating the content of political speech? She is in favor of McCain. Most of the neighborhood is in favor of McCain. The sign that the HOA wanted removed was an offensive anti-Obama sign. I could agree that they were trying to regulate the content of political speech if they were trying to get all pro-McCain signs (or all pro-Obama signs) removed, but they were only trying to have an offensive sign removed, regardless of the political content.

I agree that the HOA has made a big mistake here. But the mistake was when they failed to enforce their CC&R restriction by allowing any signs at all.
RenaeW1


Posts:0


10/20/2008 9:21 AM  
Posted By BryanG1 on 10/20/2008 9:10 AM
Posted By GeorgerwilliamsW on 10/20/2008 6:03 AM
If you are interested, here is a summary of the Supreme Court's CITY OF LADUE,v. MARGARET P. GILLEO 92-1856. This case deals with a municipality, not a homeowners association. It remains to be seen if the Court would extend this reasoning to homeowners associations, particularly given the Twin Rivers decision.

Date Decided: June 13, 1994

Issue: Freedom of Speech -- Whether the government may constitutionally prohibit homeowners from displaying virtually all signs on their property.

Vote: No, 9-0




The key word there being Government. HOA's are different.



That's correct Bryan. The government isn't restricting free speech or signage, the HOA is restricting this by contract; a contract that the person buying into the neighborhood agreed to.
MicheleD
(Kentucky)

Posts:4491


10/20/2008 9:23 AM  
Posted By RenaeW1 on 10/20/2008 9:21 AM
Posted By BryanG1 on 10/20/2008 9:10 AM
Posted By GeorgerwilliamsW on 10/20/2008 6:03 AM
If you are interested, here is a summary of the Supreme Court's CITY OF LADUE,v. MARGARET P. GILLEO 92-1856. This case deals with a municipality, not a homeowners association. It remains to be seen if the Court would extend this reasoning to homeowners associations, particularly given the Twin Rivers decision.

Date Decided: June 13, 1994

Issue: Freedom of Speech -- Whether the government may constitutionally prohibit homeowners from displaying virtually all signs on their property.

Vote: No, 9-0




The key word there being Government. HOA's are different.



That's correct Bryan. The government isn't restricting free speech or signage, the HOA is restricting this by contract; a contract that the person buying into the neighborhood agreed to.





RenaeW: This was what I was trying to articulate. Thanks for doing it for me! Agree completely.
DwightT
(Idaho)

Posts:664


10/20/2008 9:42 AM  
Another article that might be of interest here is this one on personal & public expression from the First Amendment Center. The writer notes the Twin Rivers case, but he also discusses a Pennsylvania case that found that HOAs restrictions on signs are valid because of the private nature of HOAs and the contractual agreements of CC&Rs. So while municipalities are barred from enforcing sign restrictions, HOAs are still able to enforce theirs.
KirkW1
(Texas)

Posts:1665


10/20/2008 11:52 AM  
That's my point exactly. If you allow election signs, you have to allow all signs. You can't pick and choose which ones you will allow. That's selective enforcement.



Actually, this is just not the case. Texas has a very workable law in this regards. An owner has the right to display one sign per ballot item. The signs can be displayed for 90 days prior to election until 10 days after the election. This doesn't stop HOAs from restricting signs that of another nature. In fact, it clearly states that the signs must be in regards to a ballot item.

Further, the law allows for restrictions as to the size, mounting, and construction of signs. It should also be noted that the following restrictions exist:
(7)Contains language, graphics, or any display that
would be offensive to the ordinary person; or
(8)is accompanied by music or other sounds or by streamers or is otherwise distracting to motorists.



This has all worked pretty well for the past three years in Texas. And it is a farce to say that allowing one to put up a sign with their favorite candidate's name on it opens the door to anything one wants to put up. The argument is an abuse of logic.
RenaeW1


Posts:0


10/20/2008 12:45 PM  
Posted By KirkW1 on 10/20/2008 11:52 AM
That's my point exactly. If you allow election signs, you have to allow all signs. You can't pick and choose which ones you will allow. That's selective enforcement.



Actually, this is just not the case. Texas has a very workable law in this regards. An owner has the right to display one sign per ballot item. The signs can be displayed for 90 days prior to election until 10 days after the election. This doesn't stop HOAs from restricting signs that of another nature. In fact, it clearly states that the signs must be in regards to a ballot item.

Further, the law allows for restrictions as to the size, mounting, and construction of signs. It should also be noted that the following restrictions exist:
(7)Contains language, graphics, or any display that
would be offensive to the ordinary person; or
(8)is accompanied by music or other sounds or by streamers or is otherwise distracting to motorists.



This has all worked pretty well for the past three years in Texas. And it is a farce to say that allowing one to put up a sign with their favorite candidate's name on it opens the door to anything one wants to put up. The argument is an abuse of logic.




As there are many people from many states that use this forum, I would clarify that I am generally speaking that if your covenants state no signs except "For Sale" signs, then if you allow election signs, you must allow any and all signs. If you permit some signs and not others, that is selective enforcement. I am not familiar with Texas law, as I do not live there. Using Texas law generally is an abuse of logic.

BryanG1
(Florida)

Posts:43


10/20/2008 1:36 PM  
Well, I still can't find anything regarding HOA's and political signs in Florida, so I am going to assume for now that political signs aren't allowed if it is stated as such in your CC&R's.
DonnaS
(Tennessee)

Posts:5671


10/20/2008 3:08 PM  

Bryan,
You are assumming correctly, no signs allowed in the cc&rs means no signs allowed. Pretty easy to follow if you ask me.
SusannaM
(Florida)

Posts:366


10/20/2008 5:10 PM  
In the past 2 or 3 weeks I have also noticed quite a few political signs in my neighborhood. I figure that by the time they get a warning letter from prop. mgmt. co. and giving HO so many days to correct the violation, presidential elections will be over.
KirkW1
(Texas)

Posts:1665


10/20/2008 5:19 PM  
Note that I do advocate writing the rules in the manner in which you intend to enforce them. So, if you want to allow say three signs provided by candidates, then you should write your rules to accommodate such.

Personally in a development of single family homes I don't see why election signs should be prohibited. I think that this is where Texas got it right. There isn't a blanket allowance for "political" signs. There is an allowance for signs dealing with a specific ballot item. This could be for a candidate, or in support (or against) one of the constitutional amendments that Texas sees. (Our constitution was not that well written and is regularly amended. Sometimes for very local issues.)
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