New HOA Flag and Sign Bill Took Effect on Sept. 7

My June 10th column, which you can read at www.JimSmithColumns.com, concerned a “freedom of expression” bill passed by the legislature prohibiting HOAs from restricting the display of flags or signs by homeowners, whether political or other non-commercial signs. 

I warned that this could unleash a flood of partisan signs which could be detrimental to the harmony of neighborhoods. The bill was signed by Gov. Polis on July 7th, so it’s now law.  I haven’t seen a surge of  “Trump Won” or “Black Lives Matter” signs which might have previously been banned by HOAs, but the law only took effect last week, so only time will tell what the effect will be.

HOA rules now have to be “content-neutral.” Only the size and number of signs can be regulated. I’ve seen only one HOA (the Highlands Ranch Community Association) issue new rules consistent with the law. They limit each home to 2 signs up to 18”x24” except during a specified Election Period, when  5 signs up to 3’x4’ are allowed.

Legislation Bans HOA Limits on Political Flags & Signage

Before the current session of the Colorado General Assembly ends this Saturday, it will send to the Governor a bill which bars HOAs from limiting the display of partisan flags and signs.

The bill’s prime sponsors are Rep. Lisa Cutter of Jefferson County and Sen. Robert Rodriguez of Denver, both Democrats.

The title of the bill is “Homeowners’ Association Regulation of Flags and Signs” with the subtitle “Concerning additional protections for homeowners’ freedom of expression in common interest communities.”

Sounds like a good idea, right? Who is (or dares to be) against freedom of expression? It has attracted 11 other representatives and 5 other senators as sponsors.

However, let’s consider the unintended (or perhaps intended) consequences of this law. Basically the bill only allows content-neutral regulation of signs and flags, prohibiting only commercial messages.

Considering the political divide in our country and the extremism on each side of it, do we really want to allow unfettered display in our communities of right-wing and left-wing signs and flags?

I can live with the fact that a neighbor might be a QAnon follower, but I don’t want his lawn festooned with conspiracy messages or even Trump 2024 flags and signs without any limitation on their number or duration of display.

Currently it is common for an HOA to bar flags or signs of a political nature unless they are for a particular candidate or ballot measure and to limit their display to 45 days prior to an election and a short period afterwards. The effect of HB21-1310 would be to bar HOAs from enforcing any such limitation on the display of any political message at all, even if the membership voted for such a limitation.

If this bill becomes law, look for signs cropping up in your neighborhood for “Stop the Steal” or “Black Lives Matter” or “White Power” or even hate speech that’s reduced to a slogan. Do we need that much freedom of expression right under our noses every, day year round?

This can only serve to rile up divisions among neighbors who were heretofore happily ignorant of each other’s political beliefs. I can picture neighbors removing or destroying signs and flags they disagree with. These actions will be caught on cameras leading to criminal complaints and sometimes violence.  Do we really want to go in this direction?

Homeowners and renters are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their premises. Unleashing this “freedom of expression” through flags and signs will only work against that principle.

I hope Governor Polis vetoes this bill when it gets to his desk.