Federal Law. On July 24, 2006, HR42, the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, was signed into law. It prohibits restrictions on displaying the U.S. flag on a member's unit, lot or exclusive use common area. Under the Act, community associations:
may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use.
Federal law allows community associations to establish reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions necessary to protect a substantial interest of the association.
California Law. California's Civil Code § 4705 adopted in 2002, allows owners to display the United States flag on their separate property or exclusive use common area, regardless of any association restrictions to the contrary, except as required for the protection of public health or safety.
Protected Manners of Display and Locations. Subject to restrictions protecting the public health and safety, California law guarantees the U.S. flag may be displayed:
- in a window of a separate interest
- from a staff or pole on owner's balconies, patios, decks, private yards, or other locations on a separate interest or exclusive use common area
Displaying the U.S. flag in any other manner or location may be reasonably restricted or prohibited, depending on the circumstances.
Protected Materials. California law only applies to U.S. flags made of fabric, cloth or paper. Associations may prohibit U.S. flags or depictions of the flag made from lights, paint, roofing, siding, paving materials, flora, or balloons, or any other similar material.
Advertising Restriction. Associations can prohibit the display of the US flag for advertising purposes.
Foreign Flags. Because of the broad language in Civil Code § 4710, associations cannot prohibit the display of flags of other countries.
The governing documents may not prohibit posting or displaying of noncommercial signs, posters, flags, or banners on or in a member’s separate interest...
Associations can, however, limit the number of flags, whether American or otherwise, to one. See sample rules.
Recommendation: Boards should consult legal counsel whenever issues arise related to the display of flags.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.