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Subject: Display of Political Flags
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(South Carolina)


03/09/2020 12:44 PM  
Please see Board correspondence below & share your thoughts as to whether this request (by the Board) is appropriate when the HOA covenants make no mention of flags ... of any type ... patriotic, political, holiday, or sports. Seems as if this action is discriminatory in nature and not equitably enforced regarding other flags. Appreciate your insights, thoughts, and opinions.

Dear Homeowner(s),

I am reaching out to you on behalf of the HOA Board. This past week it came to the Board’s attention that a Trump flag was flying on the flagpole mounted on your dock. It appeared to be flying just one day last week.

We wanted to bring to your attention the language in our covenants about signs (below). The Board views the flag supporting the re-election of the President in a similar vein as a political sign supporting his re-election. We hope you understand. We respectfully request that you refrain from flying that flag.

Section 6. Signs. Nothing shall be hung, painted, or displayed on the outside of the windows, walls or surfaces or outside of any of the Units except for those installed by Declarant or as approved in writing by the Committee. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Declarant shall have the right to display signs for promotional, sales, exhibit and administrative purposes upon any portion of the Common Area or Lot. No one excepting Declarant shall display a "For Sale" or "For Rent" sign.

The Board has allowed the flying of college flags and flags supporting police officers as these flags are not political in nature.

Thank you for your understanding.

The HOA Board


03/09/2020 1:14 PM  
Tell them it IS a college flag! (TRUMP University).


03/09/2020 1:19 PM  
Although I’m not a Trump fan (AT ALL) and know I’d feel the same way towards the flying of the Confederate flag (a whole ‘nother conversation), the only way you’d prove this is discriminatory is to show others have tried to put up similar flags, whether Trump or other politicians and were told they can’t.

Your covenants, as written, seem pretty broad, but I know other HOAs have similar rules – usually they apply to signs posted outside the house (or sometimes in windows), and I know there’s federal law that states HOAs can’t prohibit a homeowner from displaying a US flag, although they can enact rules like allowing flags to be displayed from a flagpole set on a window vs. a flagpole in the middle of the lawn.

As for political signs, there have been all sorts of fights that have wound up in court – some people win, others lose. I don’t know what would happen if this wound up in court (would anyone complain if a flag supporting, say Biden or Warren, prompt the same letter?) you may have to start with contacting the board and request a hearing to present your side. There may be a compromise in here, but if the board says no, you’ll have to consider how far you want to take this - if you’re willing to take this to a judge, make sure you’ve exhausted all other options first, then have at it.


03/09/2020 1:31 PM  
To argue that it's discriminatory you'd want to establish that other political flags are allowed to be flown and no other politician that I'm aware of makes flags. I'm sure Trump would love to rename the country the Trumpnited Trumps of Trump Trumpica but it's not called that yet.

If it's a Trump 2020 flag, it could be argued that it's referencing a specific election and any rules about the size and timing of campaign signs would be relevant.

That said, I would assume anyone flying such a flag is looking for conflict and hoping for a reason to play victim and call the media, so I'd advise a board to ignore it.
(South Carolina)


03/09/2020 1:45 PM  

Time for you BOD to make a Rule & Regulation about allowed flags such as the current American Flag and no others. Could be looser allowing State Flags, school flags, military service flags, garden decoration flags, US Holiday Flags, etc. But the critical part of the R&R to say, no political flags are allowed.


03/09/2020 2:37 PM  
JohnW48, from my review of the law nationwide and in South Carolina, at present I believe you could spend around $3000 to $10,000 on an attorney and maybe win the right to display this political flag. Maybe not. If you won, then this would last as long as the covenants are not amended to forbid political signs. Alternatively (wait for it) you could write a short letter to the Board as follows:

Dear Board of Directors,

I am in receipt of your letter requesting that I refrain from flying a Trump flag. Your letter's candor and civility is refreshing. I hope this letter is of the same tone.

I recently spent some time studying the issue of political signs and flags in South Carolina homeowners' associations (HOAs). I am so far not aware of whether the South Carolina courts have addressed an issue like the one the Board has raised. From my layperson's review of the law, for the HOA to require me not to fly a Trump flag, it appears to me that the HOA's covenants must specifically prohibit political signs. Your letter is clear that the HOA (and/or its Committee) will approve some signs or flags but not others. It also appears that there is some subjectivity as to whether any given sign or flag is political. Respectfully, I am not as confident as the Board that a sign supporting police officers is not political.

I will continue to study this issue. For now, I respectfully decline your request.


John _____
[email addie]


03/09/2020 2:49 PM  
John, one other thing, to be clear about how I have seen disputes like this play out: No one else in your HOA is flying a flag that is clearly favoring one candidate or another, right? It is quite possible your letter will result in the board spending a thousand dollars or so for a legal opinion. It is quite possible that, if you prevail, every owner and her brother will hoist up flags supporting one candidate or another. Feathers will be ruffled. You may be the instigator of conflict in what previously may have been a peaceful neighborhood.

I think the addage, "Don't discuss politics, religion or sex in social settings" has good reason behind it. Go ahead and disrupt the community, all on account of it's so certain that your Trump flag will be key to the President's re-election. Or maybe you do just want to antagonize people, first for supporting Trump, and second for declaring you get to do anything not expressly prohibited in the covenants?


03/09/2020 3:29 PM  
John, ALL the HOA Declarations we have had over the years have distinguished between "flags" and "signs."

I think if the Declarant wanted to include "flags" with the restriction on "signs," they would have done so.

For example, my current HOA states "No flags or banners of any kind.... ," and in a separate paragraph, numbered differently: "No signs of any kind may be displayed on the property except for real estate signs to be hung in the first floor window of units or homes and not to exceed...... (dimensions)."

"Flags and Banners" versus Signs. Usually distinguished in Declarations. Same for other Declarations from different HOAs. To me signs are rigid, hard displays and flags are cloth or soft material.

If it were me, I would send your Board a letter that states there is no restrictive covenant regarding flags of any kind on private lots or docks contained in the Declaration; only a restriction on the display of signs. Also explain that other homes have displayed various flags for years.

Maybe consider hiring a lawyer who represents homeowners versus HOAs to send the letter on their letterhead.



03/09/2020 4:25 PM  
I see zero difference between a political flag and political sign ... except one is mounted to a rope on a flagpole.
(South Carolina)


03/09/2020 5:02 PM  
I very much appreciate everyone's input, thoughts, & suggestions. Very helpful !!

Will need to mull on this one over for awhile ... as I don't want to knee-jerk something regrettable ....

Please continue to share your input which I'll lean on to formulate my next move ... thanks again!!


03/09/2020 5:24 PM  
In today's environment, I see no problem in flying a Trump flag. I now have a better understanding of my neighbors.


03/10/2020 1:26 PM  
I would have a real problem with their position. They established how flags violate the covenants but then they go on to say they make exceptions for schools and support of police officers, however, they will not make the same exception for political speech. That makes no sense. I think if they make exceptions for other flags they can't attempt to restrict yours because it may be controversial.


03/10/2020 1:34 PM  
Kinda mixing apples and grapefruit.

A flag is a "thing" - and, political speech is a "concept" with protections, and ... a sign is a "thing."

Sure, a neighborhood can specify "no signs except ..." ...

A flag with the same silly political stuff on it is no different than a sign.


03/10/2020 8:34 PM  
Most HOA’s note flags in their CCR’s. In past many CCR’s did not allow even American Flags; however, many states now have laws allowing American Flags. Also, many HOA’s will allow political signs for X amount of time (generally 60-90 days prior to an election ... and some State Statutes require allowing. If it was me I would write a letter similar to what Augustine noted informing the HOA that the section they noted pertains to “signs” and does not reference “flags”.

While South Caroline State HOA Statutes apparently do not themselves specifically address political signs within an HOA the State separate laws note the following and here is an article I found with the statement:

“In South Carolina, it is a misdemeanor to remove, vandalize, or tamper with political signs during an election season, with potential fines of up to $100, or even jail time involved, or both.”

Similar to allowing American Flags more and more states are telling HOA’s they must allow political signs for a specified time period. Maybe it is something you need to write your Legislators so they can better clarify for future. In the meantime potentially your HOA needs to PROVE that flags are not allowed via your governing documents.
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