This election season is one of the most contentious in recent memory, and Americans are by and large sharply divided on their Presidential candidate allegiance – or, not sure at all. The First Amendment provides explicit protections for those wishing to voice their opinion on the various issues, and of course allows for voters to proudly display their support for one candidate over the other.
However, what becomes of a homeowners’ association or condominium association that places restrictions – or outright prohibitions – on the placement of election-related signage in the front yard of a private residence? On the one hand, HOA’s commonly cite aesthetics as the reason for such prohibitions. On the other, residents are within their free speech rights to proclaim affinity for a particularly candidate running for office. In the end, who wins?
As with an good legal question, the answer is: It Depends. In New York, one of the major considerations for signage is whether it could cause detriment to drivers and passersby. Signs are prohibited on any expressway-type roadway, and placement must not be conducive to “sight-distance problems or interfere with safe traffic movement in any area including intersections.”
Unfortunately for those actively involved in politics, homeowners’ associations are permitted to place content-neutral restrictions on yard signage as is decided by the board or voting body. So long as restrictions are not specifically enacted to prevent advertisement of one candidate or part over another, a content-neutral prohibition will likely be enforceable under New York law – particularly if residents’ signs are distracting or duplicitous. However, residents should be mindful of any restrictions that appear at first plush to be content-neutral, but actually have the effect of excluding one candidate over the other in practice (e.g., restrictions preventing certain colors, slogans or shapes).
Contact an experienced HOA attorney today!
If you are actively involved in your homeowners’ association and would like to discuss the enforceability of yard signage restrictions, please contact Schneider Mitola today: 212-485-9400.