Each year, the 4th of July means millions of flags will be hung from houses and adorning the tops of flag poles. It’s as American as apple pie, and an opportunity to show ones patriotism.
Seems harmless enough, unless you live in a private community with a Homeowners Association.
You might own the house, the garden and the lot, but if you’re one of the nearly 50 million Americans living in communities run by homeowners associations, you may find you don’t have the freedom to do everything you like on your property.
Homeowners associations are nonprofit organizations that manage the common areas in a housing development. They have rules that can be strict, and critics say that enforcement of those rules is increasingly turning neighborhoods into battle zones.
In some states, homeowners association can take away residents’ houses if they do not abide by the association’s rules. But do they have the right to tell you to take your American flag down?
Under the federal Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005, no condo, co-op, or homeowner association can restrict its owners from displaying the U.S. flag on their property. But there are exceptions. Associations are permitted to place ‘reasonable restrictions’ on the time, place, and manner of the display to protect a “substantial” interest of the association. The bottom line, Federal law prevents associations from enacting blanket bans on flag flying but allows restrictions that are reasonable and necessary to protect owners’ interests in association property.
You’ll also need to research your state’s law. Some have passed laws governing homeowners associations’ rules on flag displays, while others have left the issue to be resolved between homeowners and their associations.
This 4th of July, fly it high, and fly it proud, and as the burgers sizzle and the fireworks fly, take a moment to consider the veterans who sacrificed to defend our right to fly the flag. No army or HOA can, or should take that away.