Thursday, October 7, 2010

Seeing Signs?

Enforcement of association sign restrictions always seems to raise complaints about freedom of speech issues but especially during election time. Most Associations have some sort of sign restrictions usually designed to reduce visual clutter in the community. Not surprisingly and irrespective of those restrictions, many folks still want to put up their favorite political sign this time of year.

What’s an Association to do?

Go back to the basics – review your documents, and enforce them accordingly. Courts have ruled that an association can enforce sign restrictions, even in regard to political signs. Remember, restrictions that are part of the Declaration are given more deference by the courts than rules passed by the Board as Association Rules and Regulations. Some guidelines for sign enforcement (and good rules of thumb for rule enforcement in general):

• Enforce restrictions equally and fairly against all owners

• Follow the language of your documents – don’t creatively “interpret”

• Amend your rule if it lacks specificity. For example, if you don’t want signs anywhere in the community be sure your restrictive language includes signs placed on or inside vehicles or other personal property

• Follow your documents in regard to enforcement

• Document the Association’s actions

• Use a common sense approach

Some communities decide to carve out an exception for political signs during an election year since they know they are temporary in nature.

What does your community plan to do in this election year?

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