A California woman says she was told to remove her American flag that she displayed outside of her home because it violated her neighborhood’s outdoor display rules, KSWB (San Diego) is reporting.
Heather Valenti’s husband, Steve, is a Marine. The family recently moved from a military base in Virginia to a condo community in the San Deigo suburb of Oceanside, while Steve serves overseas and is based out of Camp Pendleton. Being a Marine wife and a proud American, Heather displayed a small, unobtrusive American flag outside of her condo.
— FOX 5 San Diego (@fox5sandiego) November 30, 2016
That proved too much for her condo’s Home Owners’ Association (HOA). They sent her a letter telling her the flag had to go.
“In keeping with good management practices, the following requires your immediate attention: During a recent property inspection a flag was noted in the Common Area landscaping at your unit, which is a violation of the Association CC&R’s. Page 6 of the Rules and Regulations states: ‘No property may be left or stored in the Common Area outside any residence.’ Please remove the flag from the Common Area landscaping immediately. Failure to comply will result in further action by the Board of Directors.”
Heather is a bit confused as to why the HOA was concerned about her American flag being displayed in a “common area,” while her neighbors also have signs in the so-called common area. Several have signs indicating their home is protected by this home security company or that. One other has a flag depicting a pineapple.
“I just feel like I’m being targeted. There are other people in this community that have other things up in the same exact spot and I haven’t seen them taken down; no consequences with that.”
Heather Valenti is not the first homeowner to be told by their HOA to take down their American flag. In fact, it happens pretty frequently, if news reports are any indication. And it almost always causes outrage.
RTKXAN_News “RT LaurenKravets: A local HOA tells homeowners they need permission to hang the American flag. I’ll e… pic.twitter.com/euMFM8xXWv“
— Austin Fox. UT (@myfoxaustin) June 22, 2016
Last year in Utah, according to KSTU (Salt Lake City), homeowners in the Chestnut Place condo community in Murray were told that they had to take down their American flags, or face fines. Condo board member Jo Ann Dugay said several residents complained about all of the American flags being displayed around the complex. The HOA decided to take action.
“After the last board meeting, we were leaving and two members of the board and a resident said they were tired of looking at the flag. They said ‘is this flag row?’ And that something needed to be done about it.”
The next day, letters went out to homeowners telling them to take down the flags – not just the American flag, but any and all flags – or face fines. Resident Erin Worthen refused to take hers down; for her act of defiance, she was fined $75.
So, can Home Owners Associations legally prevent you from flying your American flag?
According to legal education website NOLO, you actually are allowed to display your American flag, even if your HOA prohibits it. And your right to display the flag is protected by federal law.
“The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 makes it illegal for an HOA to restrict owners from displaying a U.S. flag.”
Of course, your HOA can place “reasonable” restrictions on your display of the flag. For example, it can’t obstruct a neighbor’s view or otherwise create a hazard.
However, if you wanted to fight your HOA in court, prepare to cough up money for court costs. That’s why so many homeowners simply cave when their HOA’s give them grief about the flag. They either don’t know that the law protects them, or they’re just not interested in going through the time and expense of a court battle.
[Featured Image by Cory A Ulrich/Shutterstock]