Homeowners often express righteous indignation when their Association asks them to take down or alter their display of the American flag. Although architectural review committees and governing documents preserve both the value and aesthetics of owners’ property, they can also confine expression. Many owners feel that it is their patriotic right to display the flag on their property. These competing priorities can create conflict in a homeowners association.
Congress recently addressed this issue with new legislation entitled the “Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005”. The “Flag Act” as it is commonly known, was originally introduced by House Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) in January 2005. It was signed into law by President Bush in July of 2006. It is was effectively immediately.
The Flag Act prevents homeowners associations from adopting or enforcing policies which would “restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag” on property owned by that individual member. However, it recognizes the right of homeowners associations to place reasonable restrictions on the “time, place or manner” in which the owner displays the US Flag if such restrictions are necessary to protect a substantial interest of the Association.
As the Flag Act is federal legislation, it is applicable in all 50 states. It applies to condominium associations, planned community associations and any other residential property ownership scheme governed by a homeowners association.
The Flag Act reflects the policies of the Community Association Institute (CAI) – a nationwide trade group and organization specializing in homeowners associations. CAI’s policy is for “the elimination of community association restrictions that prohibit the display of a reasonably sized, removable American flag from a resident’s exclusive use of limited common element areas, so long as the flag is displayed in accordance with the Federal Flag Code… ”
Jason L. Grosz
Attorney at Law