Political Season is Upon Us: Guidance for Navigating Political Sign Display in Community Associations
With Presidential, Senate, and House elections less than thirty days away, political signs are popping up in yards everywhere.
Many community associations have restrictions in their governing documents prohibiting or limiting the display of political signs, including the size, number, and time period of display. However, those community associations without such restrictions are searching for answers on how to possibly regulate political sign display in the current polarizing political climate. For a better understanding of what a community association is all about, please check out Unwrapping the Riddle: What is a Community Association.
What is a Political Sign?
Both the North Carolina Planned Community Act ("Chapter 47F") and the North Carolina Condominium Act ("Chapter 47C") define a political sign as any sign that attempts to influence the outcome of an election, including supporting or opposing an issue on the election ballot. A political sign can take any shape – a flag, a garden flag, a banner, or a poster, just to name a few. These types of political signs may be prohibited or regulated under both Chapter 47F and Chapter 47C.
Community Associations with Governing Documents Recorded Prior to October 1, 2005
For homeowner associations and condominium associations with a declaration or restrictive covenant recorded prior to October 1, 2005, the display of political signs may only be regulated or prohibited if the recorded document specifically uses the term "political signs." In other words, a provision in the association's declaration or restrictive covenants that provides the association with the authority to prohibit and limit all "signs" in the subdivision or condominium is not effective to prohibit political signs. However, if the restrictive covenants provide that the association can prohibit or limit all signs, including but not limited to political signs, then the association could legally prevent all political signs within the subdivision or condominium.
Community Associations with Governing Documents Recorded On or After October 1, 2005
For those homeowner associations and condominium associations with a declaration or restrictive covenant recorded on or after October 1, 2005, both Chapter 47F and Chapter 47C require the recorded declaration or covenant of restrictions to include specific language on the front page of the document as well as in the body of the document in order for it to properly prohibit or regulate the display of political signs.
If your governing documents do not meet the necessary criteria discussed above, all is not lost. The Board, following its rulemaking authority requirements, may promulgate a rule prohibiting political sign display earlier than forty-five days prior to an election and later than seven days after the election and may regulate the size and number of political signs allowed to be displayed on a lot or condominium unit. But, be careful! The Board cannot promulgate a rule that is more restrictive than a local political sign ordinance. If there are no local ordinances regulating political signs in the county or municipality where your community is located, then the rule must allow at least one political sign, at least 24 inches by 24 inches in size per lot or condominium unit.
Preparing for Heavy Waves
In any political climate, tempers can run hot on both sides of the aisle. Make sure that you understand your community association's governing documents, as they may or may not be able to properly prohibit or regulate political signs within your community. Navigating the display of political signs can be tricky, so do not hesitate to reach out to community association legal counsel to help you along the way.