In South Carolina, HOA flag restrictions are quite common. But, a new proposed bill may change a significant part of these restrictions.
Understanding South Carolina HOA Flag Restrictions
Homeowners associations are known for many things, chief among them being their ability to preserve curb appeal and property values. One way these associations accomplish this is by enforcing strict rules when it comes to the use of homeowner property.
Homeowners living in these communities have to abide by certain architectural guidelines. These guidelines dictate what homeowners can and can’t do when it comes to architectural modifications. This may include what color to paint the exterior of the property, what materials to use as roofing, and any other external additions or changes homeowners want to make.
That may sound unfair, but homeowners who buy into the community should know what they are getting themselves into, as they are typically presented with the HOA’s rules prior to closing. But, other times, a homeowner may already be living in the community when the HOA decides to enact a new architectural rule.
Perhaps one of the most highly-contested architectural rules, though, has to do with flying the American flag. According to the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, homeowners associations can’t prohibit their members from displaying the U.S. flag on private property, so long as the flag is displayed in a respectful manner consistent with the U.S. Flag Code.
However, these federal laws do not prevent an HOA from imposing rules about where and how homeowners can display the U.S. flag. Generally, homeowners associations enact such restrictions for aesthetic or public safety purposes.
The Fight Against South Carolina HOA Flag Rules
It is not uncommon to see homeowners challenging their associations when it comes to their rights. In South Carolina, one veteran’s fight against his HOA has gained much attention.
A few years ago, Air Force veteran Bob Huey moved to an HOA community in North Myrtle Beach. As he had always done with his previous homes, Huey wanted to fly the American flag on a flagpole. But, his HOA denied his request.
Huey subsequently filed a lawsuit against his HOA, arguing that the association’s rules do not clearly restrict flags or flagpoles. Additionally, the city’s planning and zoning ordinances allowed homeowners to put up a flagpole on personal property, provided the flagpole does not go beyond 15 feet.
The HOA countered with the argument that it has the right to reject Huey’s request. In their response to the veteran’s lawsuit, the HOA’s attorneys said that the association had the power to control the proposed and constructed structures in line with its covenant.
The result of the lawsuit would never come to light, though, as the hearing date came too late. By the time the court responded, Huey had already sold his home and dropped the case.
New SC Bill to Protect the Right to Fly American Flag in South Carolina
The story of veteran Bob Huey’s fight against his HOA is not the first, and it likely will not be the last. Huey wrote to Rep. William Bailey about his cause but never got a response. But, Bailey had gotten word about a similar story elsewhere in South Carolina, which prompted him and a handful of other legislators to propose a new bill: SB3537.
This new bill would grant homeowners living in an HOA community the right to display a portable or removable American flag on a flagpole. The provision would apply to the South Carolina state flag as well. In addition to homeowners, the bill also grants tenants tied to a leasing agreement the same right. As always, both flags must be displayed in a respectful manner.
The bill had already passed the third reading as of writing and went on to the SC Senate.
How Homeowners Associations Should Proceed
While the bill has yet to pass, homeowners associations should ready themselves for possible changes. Restrictions that prohibit homeowners from displaying the U.S. flag on flagpoles will need amending.
Although the bill will grant homeowners the right to put up flagpoles for the purpose of flying the U.S. or South Carolina flag, homeowners associations still retain the ability to impose reasonable rules concerning the size and placement of the flagpole.
Additionally, HOAs would do well to create and abide by a standard procedure when a homeowner violates flag rules. Usually, this will start with a notice of violation sent to the homeowner. This notice should include the exact violation the homeowner committed as outlined within the community’s governing documents. After that, the HOA should give the homeowner a chance to remedy the violation.
Securing Further Assistance
South Carolina HOA flag restrictions may soon undergo a big change should the new bill be enacted into law. At this point, homeowners associations should prepare themselves by examining their current flag rules and identifying what needs to be modified should the bill come to pass. This way, HOAs in South Carolina can remain compliant with state laws.
It is not always easy to amend the rules and covenants of an HOA community. If your HOA board is finding it difficult to do so, perhaps it is time to call an attorney or HOA management company for assistance. Call Cedar Management Group today at (877) 252-3327 or contact us online to learn more about our services.
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