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Al Key - DRC file photo

Insight Denton: Can my homeowners association bar political signs and candidates from block-walking my neighborhood?

It’s risky. Some homeowner association boards have tried and faced costly First Amendment challenges instead.

HOAs get their authority from setting up corporations. Condominium and homeowners pay dues or fees to join and agree to follow the association rules. Legal experts say the arrangement gives HOAs authority when it comes to maintaining property. But the arrangement doesn’t give the group dominion over the people who live there.

In 2011, the New Jersey Supreme Court sided with the homeowner who wanted to distribute leaflets to fellow homeowners. The court ruled that the leaflets were political speech and thus protected. (Dublirer v. 2000 Linwood Avenue Owners)  

A New York couple has been fighting their HOA for seven years over its rule that bars political signs. In 2015, an appeals court said the couple’s desire to display signs was protected as free speech under the First Amendment. (Jasinski v. Hudson Pointe Homeowners Association).

Also in 2015, a Texas judge threw out a case where one homeowner sued his neighbors because they were worshiping at home. The homeowners association joined the case in hopes of shutting down the small congregation, but the judge cited the First Amendment’s protection for freedom of religion in tossing the case. (Schneider v. Gothelf and Congregation Toras Chaim)

Management advisers urge HOA boards to proceed with caution before placing limits on any kind of political speech in their neighborhood, such as displaying signs, distributing leaflets and canvassing. Restrictions can backfire. Instead of buying peace of mind for homeowners, HOA boards could face a costly court case.


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FEATURED PHOTO: Homes in Savannah, one of many Denton area neighborhoods governed by a homeowner's association are shown in this DRC file photo.