Adams Stirling PLC


No Common Area Signs. Associations can prohibit all signs in common areas, including political signs.

Political Signs. Associations cannot prohibit political signs, posters, flags or banners on or in an owner's separate interest. (Civ. Code § 4710.) In planned developments, residents can display signs in their yards in windows, on doors, and on the sides of their houses. In condominiums, they can display signs on the inside of their windows and on balconies. They cannot put them on exterior windows, doors or walls since those are common areas.  See "Political Activities and Flyers."

Type of Materials. Noncommercial signs may be a poster, flag, or banner made of paper, cardboard, cloth, plastic, or fabric. Associations can prohibit  signs (i) made of lights, roofing, siding, paving materials, flora, or balloons, or any other similar building, landscaping, or decorative component, or include the painting of architectural surfaces. (Civ. Code § 4710(b).) 

Size of Signs. An association may prohibit noncommercial signs and posters that are more than 9 square feet in size and noncommercial flags or banners that are more than 15 square feet in size. (Civ. Code § 4710(c).) 

Content. Signs, posters and flags displaying obscenity or fighting words can be restricted.

Mobilehome Park Time Limits. In mobilehome parks, a political sign "may not be displayed in excess of a period of time from 90 days prior to an election to 15 days following the election, unless a local ordinance... imposes a more restrictive period of time for the display of such a sign." (Civ. Code § 799.10.) Although mobilehome parks and apartment complexes (Civ. Code § 1940.4(d)) can establish reasonable time limits for the display of political signs, currently there is nothing in the law addressing the issue for homeowner associations that are not mobilehome parks. 

Number of Signs. Although Civil Code § 4710 does not address an association’s ability to limit the number of signs, this idea is implicit in the statute. The Legislature empowered associations to limit the size of signs/posters to nine square feet and flags/banners to 15 square feet. If owners are free to install limitless signs and flags, they effectively render the size limitations meaningless, e.g., five signs of nine square feet means the owner is using 45 square feet of signage. If the Legislature intended for this to be available to owners, it would not have included the size limits. Also, when the legislature wishes to allow for more than one item, it expressly so states. For example, for the display of religious items, the relevant statute states “ no governing document shall limit or prohibit the display of one or more religious items on the entry door or entry door frame of the member’s separate interest.” (Civil Code § 4706(a).)

Defined. A commercial sign is one that displays a message on behalf of a company or individual for the intent of making a profit. It is economic in nature and usually has the intent of convincing the audience to purchase a specific product or service. Associations cannot prohibit noncommercial signage which implies they can prohibit commercial signs and flags from being posted (i) in the common areas and (ii) in separate interests. (Civ. Code § 4710.)

Real Estate Signs. "For Sale" and "For Lease" signs are deemed commercial signs. While associations may not ban signs and banners entirely (Civ. Code § 4710Civ. Code § 4700), they may impose reasonable restrictions for aesthetic purposes. Associations may limit signs to one per unit and require that signs be removed within a reasonable time period following a lease or sale. Finally, associations may prohibit owners and Realtors from putting real estate signs, flags, and banners in the common areas. (Fourth La Costa v. Seith.)

Condominiums. Because condominium owners do not have a yard for posting signs, a sign may be placed in the window of the condominium. Owners can be limited to one sign. (Fourth La Costa v. Seith.) Some associations provide a bulletin board in the mail room or other common area locations for posting sales and rentals.

Planned Developments. Owners may post real estate signs on their separate interest, subject to reasonable restrictions adopted by the association. (Civ. Code § 712(a).) The location must be reasonable and in plain view of the public. A sign that conforms to the provisions of Civil Code § 713 shall be deemed to be of reasonable dimension and design.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC