POLITICAL SIGNS IN COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS V. FREEDOM OF SPEECH
With the primaries around the corner and the general elections heating up, condominium and homeowners association communities throughout Florida are faced with the issue of political signs being posted in front yards, on balconies, in windows and common areas. As an Association Lawyer, I advise associations to be extremely careful with how they create and enforce restrictions that prohibit political expression/speech.
Most Associations have restrictive language contained within their governing documents that prohibit residents from posting signs anywhere on the unit or the property. Political signs, however, give rise to issues of freedom of speech, which is protected by the First Amendment.
It is important to note, that Community Associations (Condos/HOAs) are allowed to restrict signage, including political signs. Restrictions on freedom of speech under the First Amendment apply only in governmental or public settings, so community associations, as private non-governmental entities, are allowed to restrict political signs.
However, Florida’s associations should careful and cautious when enforcing rules and regulations concerning political signs and to do so very judiciously and under the watchful guidance of highly experienced association legal counsel.
The process should always begin by reviewing the association’s governing documents to understand the community’s current parameters concerning the posting of signs. If the board and its legal counsel determine that modifications to enhance the existing rules under the community’s governing documents are in order, it is advisable that they undertake the membership voting process for amending the documents with the new regulations rather than adopting the rule as an action of the board.
Boards should also consider adopting reasonable measures, such as the permissible sizes and locations for the signs, how long before or after an election they may be posted, and safety issues including vehicle lines of sight. Once the regulations are established, enforcement must be fair and consistent.