For many Americans, displaying the U.S. flag is one of the best ways to show patriotism for our country. So, when a homeowners association (HOA) tells a resident that they cannot display the American flag on their yard, the situation can become heated or emotionally-charged. While the HOA can impose rules and regulations for the community, do they have the right to restrict homeowners from raising a flag on private property? Here’s everything you need to know about HOA flag rules and laws about the American flag.
Can You Enforce HOA Flag Rules?
An HOA has the power to enforce its own rules and regulations within the community, but they still have to abide by local, state, and federal laws. When it comes to flag rules, associations must abide by the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005. HOAs and other real estate management organizations cannot prohibit its members from displaying the American flag on private property. Your association cannot have HOA policies that interfere with homeowners’ right to raise the American flag.
There are two provisions. First, the American flag should be displayed properly. Second, associations can make reasonable restrictions on when, where, and how the flag is displayed in order to protect their interests and property values.
How to Display the American Flag Correctly
If homeowners want to enjoy the protection that the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act provides, they must display the flag correctly. Homeowners should follow the U.S. flag code. While it is no longer enforceable in courts, the U.S. flag code is still federal law.
General guidelines state that the flag should not be on the ground or touching anything beneath it. There should be no markings, drawings, and insignia on or attached to the flag. It should also only be displayed from sunrise to sunset. If a homeowner wants to display it at night, the flag should have proper lighting.
The American flag should be taken down during inclement weather unless the homeowner is using an all-weather outdoor flag. It should be displayed on all days, but especially on New Year’s Day, Inauguration Day, Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, Flag Day, Labor Day, Constitution Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and so on.
During Memorial Day, the flag should be flown at half-mast until noon, then briskly raised to the top of the flagstaff until sunset.
If the American flag is tattered or no longer fit to be displayed, the homeowner should dispose of the flag in a dignified way. The preferred method is burning, but homeowners can first verify with the HOA if the act is permitted inside the community. If not, it can be buried, shredded, recycled or donated.
Homeowners should abide by these guidelines if they want to raise the American flag on their property. The HOA can also periodically send friendly reminders to homeowners as reminders.
Can You Impose HOA Flag Restrictions?
While the HOA cannot prohibit homeowners from displaying the American flag, they can impose restrictions that can affect how it is displayed. The association can have rules on the flagpole on homeowners’ properties. The board can indicate a proper flagpole location and a maximum height limit.
If the board chooses to enforce HOA flag rules, they have to be clearly outlined in your community’s covenants or bylaws. The governing documents should also include steps that homeowners need to follow before they can install a flag pole and display the American flag.
Some associations will first require approval from the board. This is to prevent homeowners from potentially hitting or damaging water pipes underneath their property. Designating the flagpole location allows the board to check if it will obstruct the views of other homeowners. The HOA can also make sure that the chosen flagpole fits with the architectural design of the community.
Your bylaws may include possible sanctions or fines for residents who do not follow the HOA flag rules. Have the documents checked by HOA management to ensure that everything is in order.
When coming up with flag restrictions, don’t forget to stress that the HOA is not interfering with homeowners’ right to display the American flag. The board is doing its job and making sure that all residents have a peaceful and beautiful living environment. Homeowners won’t want a flagpole that damages property, has an unkempt appearance, or is too large.
How to Deal with Flag Disputes in Your Community?
Despite having HOA flag rules, it’s likely that the board will still have to deal with non-compliance from some homeowners. Since this can be a very touchy subject for a lot of people, it’s important to tread carefully. The success or failure of these disputes may reflect badly on your association. You don’t want to come out of these disagreements either too weak or overly restrictive and power-hungry.
It’s recommended to have a standard procedure when dealing with non-compliance to HOA flag rules. HOA management or the board should send official notices to homeowners. The letter should state that they are violating specific flag restrictions as outlined in your community’s bylaws.
Offer suggestions on how they can remedy the situation and provide a reasonable time frame for the homeowner to implement these changes. The HOA board can always seek legal assistance when dealing with flag-related issues as well as other community matters.
Finding a Balance Between Federal Law and HOA Flag Rules
Federal law makes it clear that associations cannot impose HOA flag rules that interfere with homeowners’ right to display the American flag. As part of the community, homeowners should still abide by flag regulations that are imposed by the HOA.
Just remember that the U.S. flag is a powerful symbol that means a lot of most Americans. Your HOA should always remain respectful to homeowners’ beliefs and patriotic values, but at the same time strictly enforce rules and regulations that are clearly stated in the community’s governing documents. Finding a balance between these two will help you create a beautiful and peaceful community.