Déjà Vu All Over Again: Political Signs in Community Associations
July 31, 2012
Yogi Berra famously quipped “it’s like déjà vu all over again” regarding Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris repeatedly hitting back-to-back home runs in the Yankees’ games in the early 1960s.
That same wisdom is apropos of a new dispute between a unit owner and her community association in Barnegat Township, which implicates the New Jersey Supreme Court’s recent decision in Mazdabrook Commons Homeowner’s Association, Inc. v. Khan.
As reported in the Press of Atlantic City, Anita Carbonara has two signs in support of President Barack Obama in the windows of her Barnegat Township home. The Board of Trustees at the Heritage Point, Ms. Carbonara’s homeowners’ association, wants the signs removed. Ms. Carbonara previously made a request to the Board to allow her to display the signs, but despite the fact that the association does not appear to have a written sign policy or any such restrictions, the Board denied her request. Ms. Carbonara steadfastly refuses to remove the signs.
As we discussed in our recent blog post and client alert on the Mazdabrook case, the overall impact of the Supreme Court’s decision is that associations cannot absolutely ban a unit owner’s right to post a political sign on his or her own property even if that property is subject to community rules and regulations. Yet, the Court reaffirmed an association’s right to enact reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on signs, such as limiting the number or location. Moreover, written criteria for signs must exist prior to enforcement.
However, the Supreme Court left undecided the issue of other methods of expression, such as posting signs in flower beds adjacent to a unit or on the common property, particularly where such methods may have a greater impact on commonly owned facilities or the rights of other association residents.
Again, we caution management and board members who are seeking to enforce sign restrictions to consult with association counsel to determine whether current rules and restrictions or proposed regulations pass constitutional muster.
But with respect to the dispute between Heritage Point and Ms. Carbonara, to borrow another phrase from Yogi, “it ain’t over til it’s over.”
If you have a question about sign restrictions or any other issue concerning your community association, please contact one of our Community Associations attorneys. For breaking news or updates on new blog posts, follow us on Twitter at: @njcondolaw.