Free Speech in HOAs: protected in NJ but not in FL?


By Deborah Goonan

As the 2016 Presidential election campaign heats up, so do political sign controversies in homeowners associations. Here’s a perfect example from Florida, a dispute over a Hillary Clinton sign in a resident’s window.

Help Me Howard, Channel 7 WSVN, on political signs in your HOA

Howard Finkelstein is Public Defender for Broward County in Florida, but he moonlights as a legal analyst for the local Fox News affiliate. According to Finkelstein’s analysis, an HOA can deny a resident’s right to display a political sign as long as their documents are “written correctly,” and if the homeowner took this to court, she would “probably lose.” However, an HOA cannot allow some types of political signs (such as the one we see in the video about gun ownership rights) and not others ( a sign supporting Hillary Clinton).

That would be Selective Enforcement: that’s the kind of inconsistency that gets HOA Boards in trouble, the kind of stuff that leads to billable hours to the Association attorney to defend the indefensible. Guess who pays for this folly? Why, that would be all the homeowners.

Of course, Howard brings up the standard argument that because it is not the government, a private HOA can make up rules prohibiting signs. Or, as I like to say, the standard industry claim is that the Bill of Rights Need Not Apply, including your guarantee to Free Speech under the First Amendment.

But, is that absolutely true or is it subject to interpretation?

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Free Speech in HOAs: protected in NJ, not in FL?

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