Some residents recently raised concerns about strict Homeowners Association rules and restrictions on political signage in local subdivisions as many look to show support for candidates in the upcoming general election.
Peachtree Court resident Dora Emma Aguillon said that her neighbor had just put up a sign promoting President Donald Trump for reelection in her yard when everyone in the subdivision received an email from their HOA board, reminding residents of one of the HOA covenants.
The HOA covenant states that residents cannot display political signs on their lot more than 30 days prior to an election or for more than five days after an election.
Aguillon, who has her own political sign posted in her yard, reached out to the board immediately. She said the rule is a violation of her first amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution and a violation of the Forsyth County Code of Ordinances.
The Code of Ordinances states that no more than two “expression signs” shall be allowed on a lot up until 60 days before an election when another four may be allowed — for a total of up to six.
“We have the right,” Aguillon said. “Why would I allow a group to take that right from me? I will not.”
Although the board sent the email out to residents, HOA board member Nancy Gross said that they do not plan on charging a fine for those that have signs out on their yards at this point. Gross said that no resident has been forced to take down any political signs that they currently have out.
A resident in Burnt Bridge at Settendown also faced a restriction by his HOA board last week when they sent out their own email about political signs they started to see pop up in the neighborhood. The covenant about signage in Burnt Bridge is even more restrictive.
“Just a reminder that no signs, advertising posters or billboards of any kind shall be erected, placed or permitted to remain in the community. No political signs shall be allowed on a lot,” the email states.
Although some residents are concerned that the rules constitute a violation of their rights under the constitution or county ordinance, local attorneys who work frequently with HOAs and other private organizations said that this is not the case.
Georgia Nowack, with Community Association Attorneys, a law firm led by those with experience in working with Georgia HOAs, said that it is a “common misconception” that the first amendment prevents HOAs from setting rules that restrict political signs.
“In fact, Georgia courts, as well as other courts throughout the country, have consistently upheld a community association’s right to prohibit signs, including political signs,” Nowack said.
Attorney Marvin Pastel, with the Winter Capriola Zenner law firm, said that citizens’ constitutional rights apply specifically to what the government can restrict, meaning that the government cannot limit a citizen’s ability to display political signs, but a private organization such as an HOA may have that right.
“This is not a government action,” Pastel said. “In fact, this is an agreement that all of the homeowners signed, or in essence signed when you buy a deed [in the subdivision].”
Pastel said that signage regulations similar to the one at Burnt Bridge are commonplace in HOAs for larger communities with a variety of amenities and large number of residents.
For those that do not agree with certain covenants within their HOA, these rules can be amended at any time with a 67% vote from the subdivision’s residents.