(800) 626-1267

Can Homeowners Be Asked To Remove American Flag In HOA Communities?

If homeowners have been asked to remove the American flag in HOA communities, trouble can follow. For homeowners associations, it is important to act with caution when it comes to flag rules, especially on appropriate holidays.


Can the Board Ask to Remove the American Flag in HOA Communities?

There is no denying the importance of military service in the United States. In fact, it is so important that there are specific days dedicated to celebrating those who have served or are currently serving in the United States Armed Forces. Military personnel and veterans have fought and continue to fight for the nation’s freedom. And one of the ways Americans can show their support is to fly the U.S. flag.

Some Americans display the U.S. flag only on certain holidays, such as Veterans Day, Memorial Day, or the Fourth of July. And then there are others who choose to display the flag all 365 days of the year. But, whether it is a Veterans Day flag or a year-round flag, many homeowners get slapped with a violation letter from their HOA. The letter almost always includes an order to remove the display or face a fine for each day the flag remains up.

When this happens, homeowners understandably feel angered or frustrated. Is flying the American flag really something that warrants a fine from the association? Can homeowners associations even prevent residents from displaying Old Glory?

While HOAs generally have the power to enact and enforce rules, these rules must always be consistent with federal and state laws. Outright prohibiting homeowners from flying the American flag would be in breach of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005. However, this does not automatically mean HOAs have no authority to ask an owner to remove the flag. It really depends on the variables at play.


The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005

The American Flag Act specifically regulates homeowners associations, condominiums, and cooperatives. According to this Act, HOAs “may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent an association member from displaying the U.S. flag on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use.”

But, the Act also goes on to say that the display of the American flag must be done in a proper manner (consistent with the U.S. Flag Code). Moreover, the Act gives HOAs the ability to enforce reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of display, provided these restrictions are necessary to protect property values.


Proper Display of the Flag

If a homeowner wishes to display the American flag, they must do so in a manner consistent with the U.S. Flag Code. While the Flag Code contains several provisions, some of the most important ones include:

  • Display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in the open. If an owner wants to display the flag 24 hours a day, they must ensure to properly illuminate the flag in the dark.
  • The flag must never touch anything below it nor touch the ground.
  • Owners must hoist the flag briskly and lower it ceremoniously.
  • The flag must be free of any drawings, markings, or insignia.
  • Owners must take the flag indoors during inclement weather unless they are using an all-weather flag.
  • On Memorial Day, owners should fly the flag at half-mast until noon to honor fallen military veterans. After that, they must raise it to the top of the staff.

It is worth noting that the Flag Code encourages owners to fly the U.S. flag on all days but especially on special days such as:

  • Veterans Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Constitution Day
  • Armed Forces Day
  • Labor Day
  • Flag Day
  • Inauguration Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day
  • And more!


Reasonable Restrictions Allowed

The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 allows HOAs to place reasonable restrictions. Reasonable restrictions are those that help protect the character and interest of the association as well as the property values within the community.

Common restrictions include restricting the height of flag poles, the placement of flag poles, and the architectural style of the flag poles. Many associations also require owners to seek approval from the HOA board or the architectural review committee before displaying the American flag. The general objective of such a process is to make sure that the location and manner of flag placement align with both the community’s guidelines and the U.S. Flag Code.

If the governing documents permit, associations can also charge fines to owners who violate the flag rules of the community. The exact dollar amount of such fines can vary from one association to another. That being said, it is normal for HOAs to fine owners for each day the flag display remains in violation of the rules.


Advice for Homeowners Associations

veterans day flagWhen it comes to flag rules, HOA boards should act carefully because there is a lot of room for liability. In fact, several lawsuits have emerged from this very dispute — from Florida and Texas to Ohio and Kansas. And the last thing any HOA wants is to deal with expensive lawsuits. There’s also the backlash that comes with being featured in headline news.

Boards should keep in mind that they cannot prohibit homeowners from flying the U.S. flag. While reasonable restrictions are allowed, it is not easy to come up with rules that follow federal and state laws while simultaneously keeping a tight rein on architectural standards. As such, it is always best to seek the help of a lawyer to draft the community’s flag rules.

Once an HOA has completed its flag rules, it is imperative to communicate these rules to all homeowners. This way, everyone knows what they can and can’t do. It is also a good idea to re-distribute these rules right before patriotic holidays to remind owners and help minimize violations.


When In Doubt

Displaying the U.S. flag is one of the simplest yet meaningful ways to show patriotism. Homeowners associations should, therefore, tread cautiously when it comes to enacting and enforcing flag rules. When in doubt, it is best not to ask homeowners to remove the American flag in HOA communities, unless the display is clearly in violation of the Flag Code and the HOA’s lawful flag rules.



A Guide For Homeowners Who Want Architectural Changes In HOA Homes

When homeowners want to make an architectural change in HOAs, they often need to seek approval from the association. But, why is approval even needed? And what is the process for getting approval?


Why Approval Is Necessary for Architectural Change in HOAs

The chief objective of a homeowners association is to preserve property values in the community. To do this, associations must fulfill a number of obligations including enforcing architectural rules. These rules exist to maintain a consistent appearance among the homes in the community. This, in turn, boosts curb appeal and keeps property values high.

An HOA’s architectural guidelines are contained within the association’s governing documents, particularly the CC&Rs. Amending the CC&Rs usually requires approval from the membership. But, HOA boards often just need to pass a resolution to amend its operating rules. Thus, boards can add or edit architectural rules provided they don’t contradict the CC&Rs or any laws.

Homeowners associations come in all shapes and forms. As such, architectural guidelines can vary greatly from one to another. That being said, some of the most common examples of architectural guidelines include:

  • What color or shade a home can be painted
  • What materials roofs can be made with
  • How tall fences can be
  • Whether or not additional structures can be built (i.e. sheds, detached garages, decks, chicken coops)


Are HOA Architectural Guidelines Legal?

Homeowners associations typically do have the power to enact and enforce architectural guidelines. This power is granted to HOAs either by state laws or the governing documents (or both).

Homeowners in HOA communities have a contractual obligation to follow the rules of the association, including the architectural rules. When homeowners first buy a home in the development, they essentially enter an agreement with the association. Buying a home in the community also usually makes them an automatic member.

Because one may not like the rules in an HOA, it is important for buyers to first review the association’s governing documents prior to purchasing a home. Buyers can request these documents from the seller or the seller’s agent. If a buyer dislikes the rules, they can choose to back out of the sale.


HOA Architectural Committee Responsibilities

The HOA board is normally in charge of rule enforcement. Sometimes, though, boards will form a separate committee specifically to enforce the architectural standards of the HOA. The Architectural Control Committee is essentially responsible for overseeing any architectural change in HOA homes.

The exact scope of this committee can change depending on the association. But, they generally include the following duties:

hoa architectural guidelines

  • Manage the architectural application process
  • Approve or deny architectural change applications (or recommend decisions to the board)
  • Inspect the community for any breaches in the guidelines
  • Enforce the architectural rules of the association in a consistent and fair manner
  • Continuously review the architectural standards of the HOA and make recommendations on any adequate changes
  • Educate homeowners about the architectural guidelines
  • Always put the community’s best interests first in all things

Application and Approval Process for HOA Architectural Changes

As part of the association’s architectural guidelines, homeowners must usually obtain the approval of the board or architectural committee prior to making any changes. The exact procedure involved will depend on the HOA’s governing documents. But, they generally include these three steps: application submission, review, and decision.


1. Submission of Application and Supporting Documents

First, homeowners must complete an application form and submit any supporting documents. This application form should ask for the details of the project, including the materials and design that will be used. It should also contain the information of the contractor. Additionally, homeowners should submit blueprints, photos, or other plans. This will help the board or committee visualize the proposed change.


2. Review of the Proposal

The architectural committee is in charge of reviewing all applications to make sure they comply with the HOA’s guidelines. The committee must apply fair and consistent judgment when it comes to this step. Additionally, the committee must review applications in a timely manner. Committees should not delay this process. In some cases, there is even a deadline for making a decision depending on the governing documents.


3. Decision on Architectural Change in HOAs

In some associations, the architectural committee is responsible for approving or denying applications. Other times, the committee simply recommends a decision to the board, with the board making the ultimate call. A board’s decision is typically final unless it is in any way unfair, unreasonable, or arbitrary.

Whatever the decision may be, it is best to do it in writing. Furthermore, boards should also include an explanation if the application is rejected. If a homeowner’s request is denied, they can usually appeal within a set timeframe, though it depends on the governing documents.


What Happens When Homeowners Violate the Architectural Guidelines?

Where there are rules, there are rulebreakers. Whether intentionally or otherwise, there are always going to be homeowners who violate the architectural guidelines. But, what consequences are in store for those who break these rules?

fine | architectural controlOnce a violation has occurred, the association’s response typically begins with written notice. This notice of violation will contain the details of the infraction. Normally, homeowners will have the opportunity to correct the violation without further consequence, especially if it is their first violation. However, depending on state laws and the governing documents, some HOAs do proceed with a monetary fine.

In many states, homeowners do have a right to a disciplinary hearing. That means they have a chance to appear before the board and explain their side of the story prior to the disciplinary action. In California, associations are legally required to hold such hearings. There are also notice requirements involved, so boards should make sure to review their state laws and governing documents to avoid legal liability.

At the hearing, homeowners can appeal the fine or any other disciplinary action (such as suspension of privileges). Afterward, the board will make a decision and provide written notice of the said decision to the homeowner.

For architectural violations, homeowners will usually need to remedy the violation to comply with the association’s standards. If an architectural change happens without the board or committee’s approval, homeowners will have to reverse the change at their own expense. Should they wish to restart the project again, they will need to seek approval first.


From Here on Out

Homeowners should familiarize themselves with the rules on architectural change in HOAs. In doing so, they can make sure they follow the guidelines set forth and avoid wasting time and money. Similarly, boards and committees should always act in good faith and enforce the rules in a consistent manner.

Keeping track of architectural change applications and violations can come as a challenge. Streamline your process with Condo Manager’s HOA management software. Get in touch with us today at (800) 626-1267 or contact us online for a free demo.