Can Your HOA Prohibit Flag Display?

June 14, 2016

One of the most popular topics in associations across the United States is whether your HOA can legally prohibit you from flying a flag. While your right to display an American flag is protected by federal law in the U.S., each community has its own rules when it comes to how and when homeowners can fly their flags and show support for causes close to them. HOA rules and regulations regarding flag display aren’t usually related to the flag itself, but rather the flagpole and how it’s displayed. The best way to determine how and when you can display a flag on your property is by checking your HOA's governing documents and all applicable local, state, and federal laws regarding the issue.

What is the federal law for flying an American flag?

The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 was an act of Congress enacted on July 24, 2016. This Act states that real estate management organizations can't restrict homeowners from displaying the U.S. flag on their property.

What are my state laws regarding flags?

Local and state laws may also provide additional guidelines for how and what HOAs can prohibit when it comes to flying flags. Check your state laws to see if other flag protections are provided for your specific state or military flags. Florida, for example, allows homeowners to display both their state and U.S. flags on their property, and permits the use of flagpoles of no more than 20 feet, regardless of any association restrictions. Washington and Colorado have similar laws on the books but be sure to always consult your association first before making any exterior additions to your home.

What do my HOA's governing documents say about flags?

Reasonable restrictions on how and when the flag is displayed can still be enforced by your HOA even when flying the U.S. flag. Read over your governing documents before putting your flag on display to be safe. For example, if your flagpole height or location isn’t following your community's architectural guidelines, or if the size of your flag is obstructing your neighbor's view, your HOA may still have the right to ask you to take your flag down.

What if my HOA doesn't have any flag restrictions?

If your association doesn't have any specific rules in its governing documents regarding flags, it may still be a good idea to consult with your HOA board or Community Association Manager (CAM). These will be your best resources to make sure your flag display is within community guidelines. If your community doesn’t have clear guidelines, you can also speak with your board to determine next steps to adopting new rules to help homeowners know what is or isn’t allowed. 

Can I change my HOA’s rule about flags?

Fortunately, your HOA's rules are never set in stone. If there’s a rule or guideline that doesn't benefit your community's best interest, then it’s possible to change it. Work with your HOA board of directors to voice any concern you may have and discuss how to change your association's rules moving forward.

Can I display team, group, or other commemorative flags?

Outside of the official U.S. flag, few protections are given to homeowners regarding flags.  Commemorative and other flags can be deeply personal for many homeowners, so if your HOA has a rule on the books that’s prohibiting you from flying a flag you care about, try to keep some perspective by remembering the following:

  • The rule probably wasn’t created by your current association board that’s tasked with enforcing it. 
  • Rules most likely aren’t intended to stifle your expression, but to maintain the aesthetics of your community.
  • You have the power to change rules that your community has outgrown.

Do I have to remove my flag when my HOA asks?

If you’ve received an official request from your HOA to take down a flag, then it’s best to comply. If you disagree with the request, then work closely with your HOA board and CAM to help resolve the issue calmly and respectfully. Remember, everyone has your community's best interest at heart, and when there are rules you don't agree with, there are ways to resolve them.

Best Practices for Displaying the American Flag    

When you display the American flag at your home, remember to use proper flag etiquette. Always display your U.S. flag while considering the following guidelines:

  • Display your flag from sunrise to sunset, or have it adequately illuminated at night.
  • Flags should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
  • The American flag should be prominent and displayed above other flags.
  • Unless you have an all-weather flag, don't display it during bad weather.

Discover More Common HOA Questions

Want to learn more about HOAs and how they operate? Check out our post, "7 Answers to the Most Frequently Asked HOA Questions," to learn more about living in an HOA community.

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