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CAI Statement on Community Association Signs and Speech

Yard signs, decorative flags, banners, and emblems can depict virtually any individual interest, such as political preferences, religious beliefs, national heritage, holidays, seasons, universities, and athletic teams. Community association rules limiting this form of speech are developed and enforced to preserve community values.

Political signs in community associations, particularly during election seasons, often receive a lot of attention in local news and on social media. During an already contentious time, the issue can divide communities. Part of what drives the discussion is confusion over what laws or rules apply: The First Amendment? State or local laws? Community association rules?

CAI does not have a formal policy on the display of signs. However, we do believe that community association rules should be adaptable and always in compliance with applicable laws.

As many are quick to point out, the First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of speech. However, the law applies only to restrictions on speech by the government, not to limitations by private parties such as community associations and employers, and most certainly not to limitations that have been agreed to by contract.

Several states have laws governing political signs, and these statutes would take precedence over community association rules.

Unless a state law explicitly declares otherwise, a community association would be able to adopt and enforce restrictions that reasonably regulate political signs. These rules can—and should—vary from community to community to reflect the preferences of the homeowners in each neighborhood.

When allowed under local and state law, CAI supports reasonable rules that may restrict the display of a political sign. An association may develop a rule that prohibits the display of signs altogether or one that limits the time period during which a sign may be displayed. The rule may cover, among other terms, how many days before an election or vote a sign may be displayed and how many days post-election a sign needs to be taken down.

CAI calls upon community association volunteer leaders, professional community managers, residents, and attorneys to review governing documents periodically and work together to create rules that will bring the community closer together.

To help community association boards of directors navigate these important conversations, CAI created Rights & Responsibilities for Better Communities and the Community Association Civility Pledge. We encourage community association boards to adopt these principles and engage these practices.

CAI media contact: Amy Repke, (703) 970-9239,