The extent to which a HOA may restrict or prohibit homeowners from posting flags, banners and signs depends upon: (1) the nature/content of the flag, banner or sign, (2) its dimensions, and (3) the location where it is to be displayed or posted.
Noncommercial Flags, Banners & Signs Permitted
Civil Code Section 4710 provides homeowners within associations the right to display “noncommercial” signs, posters, flags or banners:
“The governing documents may not prohibit posting or displaying of noncommercial signs, posters, flags, or banners on or in a member’s separate interest, except as required for the protection of public health or safety or if the posting or display would violate a local, state, or federal law.” (Civ. Code § 4710(a).)
Permitted Signage Materials
For the purposes of Section 4710, a noncommercial sign, poster, flag, or banner may be made of “paper, cardboard, cloth, plastic or fabric…but may not be made of lights, roofing, siding, paving materials, flora, or balloons, or any other similar building, landscaping, or decorative component,” nor may it “include the painting of architectural surfaces.” (Civ. Code § 4710(b).)
Permitted Posting Locations
For the purposes of Section 4710, a noncommercial sign, poster, flag or banner “may be posted or displayed from the yard, window, door, balcony, or outside wall of the separate interest.” (Civ. Code §4710(b).) This language does not necessarily permit homeowners to display noncommercial signs upon any portions of HOA common area (i.e., common area parks or recreational facilities, common area walls surrounding condominium units, etc.).
Permitted Sign Dimensions
Section 4710 does allow for a HOA to prohibit flags, banners and signs that exceed the following dimensions:
Noncommercial Signs and Posters that are more than nine (9) square feet in size may be prohibited. (Civ. Code § 4710(c).)
Noncommercial Flags or Banners that are more than fifteen (15) square feet in size may be prohibited. (Civ. Code § 4710(c).)
Although not explicitly addressed in Section 4710, political signage is generally understood to constitute “noncommercial” signage. Additionally, pursuant to Civil Code Section 1940.4, it is unlawful for a landlord to prohibit a residential tenant from posting or displaying a political sign or banner. California Courts have analogized HOAs to landlords in certain respects. (See Frances T. v. Village Green Owners Assn. (1986) 42 Cal.3d 490, 499.)
Commercial Signs & Real Estate Signs
While Section 4710 limits a HOA’s authority to restrict the display or posting of noncommercial signs, its language does not address prohibitions on the display of commercial signs (i.e., a sign advertising a business, promoting a company or individual for profit motives, etc.). By implication, Section 4710 would not impact a HOA’s authority to prohibit or restrict the display of commercial signs. Most sets of HOA governing documents contain restrictions on the commercial use of properties; such restrictions often include language that prohibits commercial signage.
*Exception: Real Estate Signs
Notwithstanding the above, Civil Code Sections 712 and 713 provide homeowners with limited rights to display real estate signs (“For Sale,” “For Rent,” etc.), even though such signs are commercial in nature. (See “Real Estate Signs.”)
Number of Signs
Section 4710 does not address the number of noncommercial signs that may be displayed by a particular homeowner. However, in the case of Fourth La Costa v. Seith, the California Court of Appeal “[saw] no problem with allowing only one sign per unit, or requiring that signs be removed within three days of a lease or sale.” (Fourth La Costa v. Seith (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 563, 581.) Though that case pertained to real estate signs, the Court’s reasoning could similarly apply to restrictions on the number of noncommercial signs.
Civil Code Section 4705 contains similar protections for homeowners displaying a flag of the United States, as well as similar restrictions on permissible flag materials and display locations. However, unlike Section 4710, Section 4705 does not contain language addressing the permissible dimensions of U.S. flags.
Related Case Law
- Fourth La Costa Condominium Owners Association v. Seith
(1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 472
[CC&R Amendments; Real Estate Signs] Court upheld lender consent requirement for CC&R amendment, rather than lender vote; Real estate signs may be regulated for aesthetic purposes and may be prohibited from being posted in HOA common areas.