Every four years, as presidential elections heat up, condominium and homeowners association communities throughout Florida are faced with the issue of political signs being posted in front yards, on balconies, in windows and on and around the common areas. Association attorneys are often consulted, and most would advise associations to be extremely careful with how they create and enforce restrictions that prohibit political expression.
Most associations’ governing documents include restrictions that prohibit residents from posting signs anywhere on the unit or the property. Political signs, however, give rise to issues of freedom of speech, which is protected by the First Amendment.
The key for associations to remember is that restrictions on freedom of speech under the First Amendment apply only in governmental or public settings, so community associations, as private non-governmental entities, are allowed to restrict signage, including political signs, in accordance with their corresponding state law. Some states have enacted legislation specifically addressing the issue, but Florida has not and neither has the state’s Supreme Court addressed the issue specifically.
As a result, Florida’s associations are able to enact and/or enforce rules and restrictions governing the display of signs by their members, but they are cautioned to do so very judiciously and under the watchful guidance of highly experienced association legal counsel.