FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2020, Atlanta, Ga. – Forsyth County News asked George E. Nowack, Jr., attorney and co-founder of NowackHoward, LLC, for his thoughts on homeowners concerns that covenants restricting the display of political signs may impinge on their First Amendment rights. With a highly partisan election only weeks away, there is heightened potential for tension and conflict to break the harmony of neighborhoods, as residents rush to show support for their candidates. HOA boards have taken preventative steps by reminding their residents about rules and restrictions in their communities, to forestall any problems.
As previously discussed on our blog post Avoiding Campaign Sign Controversy in Your Community, the law is clearly on the side of the association, as long as the community’s covenants are clear. When buying a home in a HOA with protective covenants, all homeowners agree to abide by all the HOA’s restrictions, including sign restrictions. While the First Amendment does guarantee a citizen the right to free speech, it may only be applied to an action taken by a government body, not a private organization like a community association.
“In fact, Georgia courts, as well as other courts throughout the country, have consistently upheld a community association’s right to prohibit signs, including political signs,” Nowack said.
While this may not be met with patience by an offended resident, it will be up to each HOA to decide how the board chooses to respond to residents who choose to resist a sign restriction. It is important, however, for associations to clearly understand the risks should they pursue enforcement of restrictions in an uneven or inconsistent manner. When unsure how to deal with a rebelling resident, it is wisest for the board to consult with the association’s HOA attorney and establish a measured, appropriate response that does not inflame a situation but also maintains fair, consistent enforcement of the community’s protective covenants.
As the election nears, we would expect these conflicts to increase and take on unexpected forms. Keeping the peace and harmony of the community is a prime mission of an HOA board and clear, available documentation allows for an even-handed method of addressing challenges. This is yet another reminder of why boards must review their association’s governing documentation and resident communications on a regular basis and make updates as needed.
About George E. Nowack, Jr.
George E. Nowack, Jr. has dedicated his entire legal career to representing community associations. George is also an expert on Fair Housing Law. He has successfully defended more associations in Fair Housing Act claims than any other attorney in the country. An active member of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) since 1982, George was one of the earliest members of Georgia’s CAI Chapter and served as Georgia Chapter President in 1990 and national CAI President in 1994-95. George is also a fellow in the College of Community Association Lawyers and served as Dean of the College in 2007-08. With more than 500 articles used in seminars and workshops, George has also written weekly columns on community association issues for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution and the Gainesville Times, and other publications. George and NowackHoward have both earned the AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the legal profession’s most prestigious rating service.
About NowackHoward LLC
NowackHoward LLC is Atlanta’s most experienced and effective law firm concentrating in advising and representing homeowner and condominium associations. Lawyers at NowackHoward are among the most experienced attorneys in the United States focusing on this specific area of the law. NowackHoward lawyers have helped write almost every law in Georgia that pertains to condominium and homeowner associations and worked to get them passed, helping create more harmonious communities. With both founding partners receiving the AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the legal profession’s most prestigious rating service, NowackHoward has become home to Georgia’s top-rated community association lawyers.