Several years ago, a few Homeowners Associations, located in south Florida, brought legal actions against Association members, one of whom was a veteran, to prohibit the flying of United States flags on the homeowner’s/veteran’s property.
As the Homeowners Association had restrictive covenants with regard to flagpoles and the flying of flags, the Association sought to enjoin this conduct, and to obtain a judgment against the homeowner for the attorney’s fees and costs of the covenant enforcement proceeding.
Some members of the Florida Legislature were incensed by this action, and revised the Florida Homeowners Association Act, amending Chapter 720.304, to address this issue.
Under Florida Statute 720.304(2) (which would supersede and take precedence over any Homeowners Association documents), the Statute specifically states that a Homeowners Association must allow:
…one official United States flag, not larger than 4 ½ feet by 6 feet, and may additionally display one official flag of the State of Florida or the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, or a POW-MIA flag. Such additional flag must be equal in size to or smaller than the United States flag.
While the Statute effectively negates any Homeowners Association rules, regulations, or covenants, with regard to the specific flags listed in the Statute, a question remains as to whether an Association may restrict other types of flags, particularly flags that may be linked to political organizations, advocacy groups, or other specific causes.
The revisions to Florida Statute 720.304 would not eliminate a Homeowners Association’s ability to regulate flags or banners other than the specific flags listed in the Statute. Many Associations do have restrictions on displaying any flag, other than those set forth in the Statute. Because an HOA would have authority to reasonably control the appearance of a lot, that authority may extend to prohibiting any additional flags, banners, or similar displays. If your Homeowners Association does have such restrictions, or is considering imposing new restrictions, it is important to ensure that any such covenants or restrictions are evenly applied. (Permitting one advocacy group to display its flag or banner, and prohibiting another advocacy group, may not be enforceable).
Homeowners Associations today must be cognizant of the political and social environment of which the Association is a part and should adapt its covenants, rules and regulations to reflect the changing social environment.