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Subject: Yard Signs
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AnnE3
(Texas)

Posts:10


08/31/2020 1:00 PM  
Per our CCRs and state law, only realtor, security services and political signs (within defined time period) are allowed in front yards.

However, we have turned a blind eye to signs because they have always been non-partisan and temporary, such as a church/school festival or
working roofing company. With the pandemic, the local high school gave graduating seniors yard signs celebrating their graduation.

Many people in our HOA started putting up "We Suport Our Police" that are being sold as fundraiser for a police auxiliary group.
Two residents who are both Democrats have complained about them because they do violate our sign restrictions.

We don't want to enforce this rule because it would prohibit so many innocuous signs.

We're considering ignoring the complaints and hope no one puts out an inflammatory sign. The CCRs essentially allow us to
be arbitrary, but we recognize that's not the best policy.

Any suggestions?



GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:4133


08/31/2020 1:04 PM  
Enforce your rules. Anything else is unacceptable. Making exceptions so as to not "hurt someone's feelings" is not the way to go.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:7582


08/31/2020 1:09 PM  
Will you cite the exact wording in your CC&Rs, Ann? And in state statute?

There are some wise posters here from TX who might help.

Meanwhile, within the context of today's policy/cultural divisions, the signs supporting the police COULD be considered "inflammatory" by some. "Inflammatory" is both loaded and subjective, IMO.
AugustinD


Posts:4160


08/31/2020 1:12 PM  
I think the 'we support our police' signs are political. I think the Board can opine the same. I advise that your board permit the "we support our police" signs until December 1. This seems reasonable in view of the 'defined time period' of which you spoke for political signs. At the same time, the board should allow 'black lives matter' signs until December 1.

Just about any political sign will be inflammatory to someone.
BillH10
(Texas)

Posts:565


08/31/2020 1:34 PM  
Ann

Just to be clear: the language is in your CC&Rs and not in a policy Rules document which the CC&Rs authorized under language along the lines of "Yada, yada, yada, for which the Board may develop and communicate policies or guidelines" Right?

If the latter, the policy or rules can be fairly easily modified. If it is in the CC&RS, you will need to amend.

I second Kerry and Augustine's advice, especially about enforcing the requirements going forward. You probably can turn a blind eye to the small school flags (UT, LSU, Razorbacks, etc) and the "My daughter is whatever in the local high school band", and the yard decorations congratulating Cameron for graduating or being 12 years old, but that's about it.

Any advocacy signs will ultimately lead to the dilemma in which you now find yourself. Those on the Board were elected to enforce the CC&Rs and Bylaws, among other responsibilities.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:10017


08/31/2020 1:43 PM  
ANN

I would say BLM and BLUE are political signs and must be removed on or before one day after Election Day (I forget the date....LOL).
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:9649


08/31/2020 2:07 PM  
Most HOA's only allow For sale or For rent signs. Some don't even allow them put into yards at all. Maybe just windows.

I would stick to those rules and not be arbritrary on anything.

Former HOA President
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:667


08/31/2020 2:28 PM  
I would probably be in favor of having all of the signs removed. It is a rule and they can be looked past but in the World we live in today. I would say that because of the inflammatory references on both sides the Board has no choice but to remove all of the signs except the realtor signs at this point. We can look at it again in 2021 when the World settles down.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:10017


08/31/2020 2:43 PM  
Ann

The more I think about this the more I think your association has been to lenient and it is going to quickly get out of control. I would fall back to allowing only the listed signs and as for political it would have to be a sign for someone running for office like Trump/Pence are OK but MAGA is not.

Exception can alway be made such as the Graduation Congrat. signs.
AnnE3
(Texas)

Posts:10


08/31/2020 3:31 PM  
Texas legislature requires HOAs to allow political signs for election and specifies the time limits.

Our CCR language offers us one out as follows:

"In no event shall any sign, billboard, poster or advertising device of any character, other than
as specifically prescribed in the first sentence of this Section 6.9 be erected, permitted or maintained
on any Lot without the express prior written consent of the Architectural Control Committee."

The first sentence of 6.9 allows for sale or lease signs and security services signs.

I'm sure all the comments to enforce the rules are correct but given that we are a
small community of 167 homes, we try to be as lenient as possible.

MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:667


08/31/2020 4:15 PM  
Ann,
I would classify any HOA with 167 Single Family Homes as a medium size not a small HOA. We have some on this site that have a 4 plex HOA. I am sure you have all walks of life and opinions in your HOA just as my larger HOA with 1450+ SFHs. We are all in the same boat with these issues and of course it comes down to how involved the Board wants to get in this very sticky problem. My advice is follow the Rules and you can always blame the People that gave them to you the Developer.

I am looking forward to 2021 when we don't have Elections and Viruses running our life's and making everyone on the edge.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:3279


08/31/2020 7:58 PM  
Ann,

I don’t understand why the size of a community would relate to non enforcement?
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:7582


08/31/2020 8:36 PM  
With others, Ann. stick to your rules.

We just rec'd a complaint from an owner that another owner with a US flag on his exclusive use balcony--which is allowed-- has a flag that has been modified. It has a large pale yellow cross superimposed on it.

An older Jewish veteran, who flies a correct US flag on his balcony, complained.

These times try our souls....
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:17008


09/01/2020 3:34 AM  
Definition of "political sign" from https://www.lawinsider.com/dictionary/political-sign


Political sign means a temporary sign advertising a candidate or candidates for public elective office, or a political party, or signs urging a particular vote on a public issue decided by ballot in connection with a local, state, or national election or referendum.

Political sign means a sign advertising a candidate or candidates for public elective office, or a political party, or a sign urging a particular vote on a public issue decided by ballot.


Political sign means a sign which is designated to influence the action of the voters, and election, or defeat of a candidate for the nomination, or election to any public office, or a measure appearing on the ballot at any national, state, district, or local election.



Note: The common thread is something that is on a ballot that is voted upon.



If the Board chooses to enforce your sign regulations then, as you pointed out, the board must enforce sign regulations on all. Typically, the Board "may" enforce the covenants (has the option) just as any member may enforce the covenants.

I would site that passage in your governing documents, specify that the existing board has chosen not to spend time enforcing this one covenant because it requires enforcement of all signs including the ones you posted earlier (which the board chose to allow). Remind the complainers that they have the same options the Board has and may choose to enforce the covenants if they desire through the courts.

Expect some push back.
Move on with life.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:17008


09/01/2020 3:40 AM  
Note, per the website I provided earlier, there are various statutes around the country that would declare such a sign political.
BarbaraT1
(Texas)

Posts:357


09/01/2020 8:34 AM  
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 08/31/2020 7:58 PM
Ann,

I don’t understand why the size of a community would relate to non enforcement?




Because you have to be realistic.

Getting 100% compliance on anything in a large community is very difficult. Sending out hundreds of violation letters, fines, and potentially launching multiple lawsuits is not a practical option for for most boards.

This forum often gives advice that just doesn't work in the real world. "Just enforce your covenants!" Okay well, what happens when the owner ignores the letters and ignores the fines? In Texas, you cannot foreclose for unpaid fines and you have to apply any payments received to assessments first. The ultimate enforcement is a lawsuit. Is it in the best interests of the association to sue multiple people over signage? (Or trash can placement, or any other minor infraction). I've yet to work for the board who thinks that it is.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:3279


09/01/2020 10:44 AM  
Barbara,

Yes, to obey the rules, maintain standards and treat everyone the same - and fairly.

Absolutely, yes.

But, it is easier to not do this.
AnnE3
(Texas)

Posts:10


09/01/2020 11:12 AM  
Barbara - thank you for a realistic post.

Overstringent enforcement of minor infractions causes bad feelings and makes it that much
harder to reach a consensus when you have a major issue.

For instance, if we tell people with police signs to take them down, one of them is
sure to complain when another neighbor puts up a church bazaar sign. It won't end.

As Barbara mentioned, if someone refuses, then we are in a bind because it would cost
the HOA money to try to force them, even if it just means paying a lawyer to write a letter.

We want to enforce the rules that keep the community from looking run down and
that help maintain property values. That's where we spend money on a lawyer.

We don't want to be NAZI-like with little things, and we don't want to have to
mediate every tiff between neighbors.




GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:3279


09/01/2020 11:25 AM  
Ann,

It is NOT nazi-like to enforce your rules.

It is the job of the Board to do this - and the very thought of consensus with hundreds of properties is why there is a board.

This isn't a tiff between neighbors - or, at least it doesn't sound that way. It sounds like the Board is simply not doing its job - mainly because it is hard - and, someone might not like them.
ND
(PA)

Posts:504


09/01/2020 11:55 AM  
Posted By AnnE3 on 09/01/2020 11:12 AM

. . .
For instance, if we tell people with police signs to take them down, one of them is
sure to complain when another neighbor puts up a church bazaar sign. It won't end.

. . .




Problem is that with your chosen approach, it's guaranteed to not end either and will simply allow a mechanism for divisiveness to be advertised and visibly seen. It is simpler to totally and equally enforce the rule as it is presently stated. That way, it's not up to any individuals to define what may or may not be innocuous.

When you allow the "blue lives matter" sign to exist, you have to allow the "black lives matter" sign to exist.
When you allow the church bazaar sign to exist, you have to allow the "I hate Christianity" sign to exist.
When you allow the TRUMP sign to exist, you have to allow the BIDEN sign to exist (even during non-campaign periods).
You get the point.

And how many signs is any one individual permitted to have?!
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:7582


09/01/2020 12:24 PM  
I agree with George & ND and others who posted earlier.

Back to my example. The man who's flying a fake US flag with a huge yellow Christian cross superimposed on from his balcony might tick off his Jewish neighbor so much that the latter will purchase a US flag with a large yellow Star of David superimposed on it.

Escalation, anyone?

Our rules & state law are they may fly an official American flag, not a modified fake.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:10017


09/01/2020 12:32 PM  
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 09/01/2020 11:25 AM
Ann,

It is NOT nazi-like to enforce your rules.

It is the job of the Board to do this - and the very thought of consensus with hundreds of properties is why there is a board.

This isn't a tiff between neighbors - or, at least it doesn't sound that way. It sounds like the Board is simply not doing its job - mainly because it is hard - and, someone might not like them.



Well said.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:17008


09/01/2020 4:34 PM  
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 09/01/2020 11:25 AM


This isn't a tiff between neighbors - or, at least it doesn't sound that way. .




It might be.
Did they complain about other signs in the development?
If not, why not?

KerryL1
(California)

Posts:7582


09/01/2020 6:14 PM  
Apparently there are several police-supporting signs in the Association according to the OP. Even if only one neighbor complains, if it's against the rules or covenants, it doesn't matter if it's neighbor/neighbor. The board should enforce the rules... or change them.
BarbaraT1
(Texas)

Posts:357


09/01/2020 6:18 PM  
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 09/01/2020 10:44 AM
Barbara,

Yes, to obey the rules, maintain standards and treat everyone the same - and fairly.

Absolutely, yes.

But, it is easier to not do this.




In a large community this could mean $30k - $50k a year in legal fees. I’m simply saying I have not worked for boards willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on enforcing violations and that seems to be a reality that this forum just doesn’t acknowledge.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:3279


09/01/2020 6:25 PM  
Actually, Barbara, a well constructed legal approach would likely include picking one violator, and focusing on them to win and establish a precedent.

I don’t get it.
ND
(PA)

Posts:504


09/01/2020 7:23 PM  
Posted By BarbaraT1 on 09/01/2020 6:18 PM
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 09/01/2020 10:44 AM
Barbara,

Yes, to obey the rules, maintain standards and treat everyone the same - and fairly.

Absolutely, yes.

But, it is easier to not do this.




In a large community this could mean $30k - $50k a year in legal fees. I’m simply saying I have not worked for boards willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on enforcing violations and that seems to be a reality that this forum just doesn’t acknowledge.



I don't think anyone here who is an advocate for trying to enforce an HOA's "no sign" rule is suggesting that enforcement of that rule automatically requires the Board to spend massive amounts of money on legal and court fees to fight the violating owners to the death over their noncompliance.

There would (or should) come a time that the Board decides they tried as hard as they could and spent an amount of time/effort/money that they were willing to spend to enforce the rule, but that the cost of further and escalated action is simply not the best investment for the HOA.

Further, if the HOA did decide to pursue legal action over signs in yards . . . if the rule was clearly written (as it is in the OP's case) and has been consistently and equally enforced throughout the HOA, then the Board would stand a pretty good chance of being successful in court. When that occurs, part of the judgment coule make the homeowner responsible for their own and the HOA's legal/court fees and whatever fines, interest, and other fees were applied prior to that . . . meaning it cost the HOA nothing in the end. One or two cases like that would set the precedent (like George said) that this isn't a fight the homeowner would win . . . and 99% of the homeowners will comply with the rule into the future.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:10017


09/02/2020 10:59 AM  
Posted By ND on 09/01/2020 7:23 PM
Posted By BarbaraT1 on 09/01/2020 6:18 PM
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 09/01/2020 10:44 AM
Barbara,

Yes, to obey the rules, maintain standards and treat everyone the same - and fairly.

Absolutely, yes.

But, it is easier to not do this.




In a large community this could mean $30k - $50k a year in legal fees. I’m simply saying I have not worked for boards willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on enforcing violations and that seems to be a reality that this forum just doesn’t acknowledge.



I don't think anyone here who is an advocate for trying to enforce an HOA's "no sign" rule is suggesting that enforcement of that rule automatically requires the Board to spend massive amounts of money on legal and court fees to fight the violating owners to the death over their noncompliance.

There would (or should) come a time that the Board decides they tried as hard as they could and spent an amount of time/effort/money that they were willing to spend to enforce the rule, but that the cost of further and escalated action is simply not the best investment for the HOA.

Further, if the HOA did decide to pursue legal action over signs in yards . . . if the rule was clearly written (as it is in the OP's case) and has been consistently and equally enforced throughout the HOA, then the Board would stand a pretty good chance of being successful in court. When that occurs, part of the judgment coule make the homeowner responsible for their own and the HOA's legal/court fees and whatever fines, interest, and other fees were applied prior to that . . . meaning it cost the HOA nothing in the end. One or two cases like that would set the precedent (like George said) that this isn't a fight the homeowner would win . . . and 99% of the homeowners will comply with the rule into the future.



Well said.
MichaelB49
(Florida)

Posts:13


09/10/2020 5:17 PM  
Can a Florida HOA Board act ‘invisibly’ targeting only one owner’s no words - ‘location marking flags’?
I have re-phrased the following for emphasis: The legal validity of a violation letter sent to the resident depends on more: First, is this rule board-created? Or is it in the covenants? The difference is huge. If the "rule" derives from the covenants, please quote the covenant exactly.
Question: Can a covenant rule of ‘no signs of any character’ be expanded by the Board, acting ‘invisibly’ to, to target one owner, to also include his use of ‘utility location marking flags’ for several weeks that have no words – just color, used only as a visual aid depicting a newly surveyed (moved) property boundary for private disclosure in out of state correspondence? The minutes of the relevant Board meeting do not include any discussion of a ‘marking flag’ violation or any vote authorization for issuing a ‘marking flag’ violation letter. There is No written trace of a Board’s action - beyond the violation letter and a follow-up certified letter from the Board’s law firm.
Question: Can a board letter be legal and have consequences if no written trace exists in board minutes for its issue?
MichaelB49
(Florida)

Posts:13


09/10/2020 5:17 PM  
Can a Florida HOA Board act ‘invisibly’ targeting only one owner’s no words - ‘location marking flags’?
I have re-phrased the following for emphasis: The legal validity of a violation letter sent to the resident depends on more: First, is this rule board-created? Or is it in the covenants? The difference is huge. If the "rule" derives from the covenants, please quote the covenant exactly.
Question: Can a covenant rule of ‘no signs of any character’ be expanded by the Board, acting ‘invisibly’ to, to target one owner, to also include his use of ‘utility location marking flags’ for several weeks that have no words – just color, used only as a visual aid depicting a newly surveyed (moved) property boundary for private disclosure in out of state correspondence? The minutes of the relevant Board meeting do not include any discussion of a ‘marking flag’ violation or any vote authorization for issuing a ‘marking flag’ violation letter. There is No written trace of a Board’s action - beyond the violation letter and a follow-up certified letter from the Board’s law firm.
Question: Can a board letter be legal and have consequences if no written trace exists in board minutes for its issue?
BarbaraT1
(Texas)

Posts:357


09/11/2020 9:55 AM  
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 09/01/2020 6:25 PM
Actually, Barbara, a well constructed legal approach would likely include picking one violator, and focusing on them to win and establish a precedent.

I don’t get it.




Really?

I would think picking only one homeowner to take to court would be selective enforcement. But I'm not a lawyer.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:3279


09/11/2020 3:08 PM  
Barbara,

I don't think so.

The Board could simply agree to address the violators one at a time - pick the one to start with and focus.
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:17008


09/12/2020 6:23 AM  
Posted By BarbaraT1 on 09/11/2020 9:55 AM
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 09/01/2020 6:25 PM
Actually, Barbara, a well constructed legal approach would likely include picking one violator, and focusing on them to win and establish a precedent.

I don’t get it.




Really?

I would think picking only one homeowner to take to court would be selective enforcement. But I'm not a lawyer.





Selective Enforcement is a defense one would use in court.


One would need proof of this (pictures, etc.)

The Association would need proof that they are enforcing the issue on others (letters, etc.)in order to dispute a claim of selective enforcement.


Even if one proves selective enforcement, the court has options. They may say:


A) Selective enforcement exists, you are in violation and must comply, the Board must enforce on everyone.

B) Selective enforcement exists, you are in violation but since the board is not enforcing uni formally, the case is tossed.

C) Selective enforcement exists, you are in violation, once the Board provides proof of enforcement on others, you must also comply.




MichaelS56
(Minnesota)

Posts:13


09/12/2020 7:22 AM  
When will the rush for all of the different signage end? Who determines which signs are ok and which signs need to be removed? Are signs allowed to support and promote the far-right groups or the far-left groups? Good luck with attempting to reign in the signage issue. Review your rules and give each Owner a deadline in which the signs that need not permitted are to be removed. This will certainly cause a lot of conversation and frustration. If you are a Board member the number of holiday cards from the Owners will decline.
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