Common Areas. Associations can prohibit all signs in the common areas, including political signs.
Separate Interest Displays. 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.
Signage Size & Construction Materials. 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, and (ii) signs or posters are more than nine square feet in size or flags or banners that are more than 15 square feet in size. (Civ. Code § 4710.) In addition, 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).)
Recommendation: Boards should work with legal counsel to develop reasonable rules related to signage.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.