Homeowners’ Associations and Election Signs

A few weeks ago, we hired a contractor to do some painting at our house.  As many contractors do, he put a sign in our yard while he was there. He didn’t ask us for permission, but if he had we would have given it to him.  A few days later, in fact after the painter and his sign were gone, we received a nastygram from our homeowner’s association informing us that our covenants prohibit any signs in the yard other than a sign advertising the property for sale. I noticed that there is no exception for political signs, and I wondered why we had not received a nastygram a few years ago when we put a candidate’s sign in our yard before an election.

I now know the answer to that, thanks to a recent Face Book post from my friend, Greg Purvis, an attorney at Spangler, Jennings, & Dougherty, P.C.

Greg pointed out that Indiana law, specifically Ind. Code § 32‑21‑13‑4,* prohibits homeowners’ associations from adopting or enforcing rules prohibiting certain types of signs on a homeowner’s property from thirty days before an election until five days after an election. It applies only to signs that meet one or more of the following descriptions:

  • The sign advocates for the election or defeat of one or more political candidates for either nomination or election to a public office.
  • The sign expresses support for or opposition to a political party or a political party’s candidates.
  • The sign advocates the approval or disapproval of a public question.

In other words, the statute applies to signs for or against candidates in either a primary or general election, signs supporting or opposing a party, and signs urging people to vote for or against a referendum question.  Curiously, it does not apply to signs encouraging people to vote without taking a position on any particular candidate, party, or referendum question.

While a homeowners’ association cannot outright prohibit signs during an election period, some regulation is nonetheless permissible. Homeowners’ associations can:

  • Restrict the size of signs, as long as signs of the size commonly used during election campaigns are permitted. Want to put out a sign that measures two feet by three feet? Not a problem.  A billboard?  Your homeowners’ association may have something to say about that.
  • Restrict the number of signs that can be displayed, as long as the homeowner is permitted to display at least a reasonable number of signs.
  • Restrict the specific location of a sign, but the rules cannot prohibit signs in the homeowners’ window or on the ground that is part of the homeowners’ property.

In addition a homeowners’ association can remove a sign that violates a permissible rule.

So that answers a lot of questions, but as often happens with the law, it raises a bunch of others.  Look for another article addressing some of them.

* If you follow the links to the Indiana Code, be patient.  The state’s website is slow to jump to the specific place on the page, but it will eventually get there.

Posted in:
Updated:

Comments are closed.