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FLAG FLYING IN CONDOS - IT's A WAY TO EXPRESS
CONCERN AND PATRIOTISM AND SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED
By Beth A. Grimm, Attorney

Tssociations, Beware, Wake-Up, and Get Pro Active. Homeowners who live in condominium associations and townhouses, and other common interest developments (with shared amenities) In the State of California are going to be flying flags. It's a fact of life; it's patriotic; and not to be condemned.

California law (Civil Code Section 434.5) prohibits associations from implementing restrictions that would prevent displaying the U.S. flag on private property. Private property in a planned development is the entire "footprint" lot owned by the individuals. In condominiums, no owner owns their own building; however, "private property" could arguably, per the satellite dish rulings and cases, be interpreted to include exclusive use balconies and patios.

Associations with Architectural Control Committees and ACC restrictions could be held to the same standard as public agencies (under which, in the same code section), may set reasonable time, place and manner restrictions but those (according to law) may not be based on aesthetics. Being a homeowner association attorney, I understand the concerns of associations in relation to aesthetics, protection of buildings and grounds, and "harmony" in appearance. However, this is a time, if there ever was one, to reassess and ease association rules on flying flags. I know that the questions will come up as to what type of flags people can fly, where they put them, how big they are, whether they adhere to rules of flag etiquette, etc. Condominium association boards are never without issues relating to people. However, in this particular era, when a war on terrorism has been declared, and it looks like a long and hard siege ahead of Americans, associations that are proactive in encouraging flag flying (of the American Flag) are going to hopefully eliminate or minimize this one ripe area of dispute.

Flag flyers make headlines. Bill Wattenburg of KGO News Radio in San Francisco has declared publicly he will offer "assistance" for any condo owner whose association does not allow them to fly a flag. He is getting calls from people whose boards have given them a hard time about flying flags.

What is sometimes overlooked is that some people have little regard for their neighbors. Loudly flapping flags, chains that rattle, and misplaced nails and screws that damage buildings and cause water intrusion is a concern of the Association and other owners.On the other hand, of concern for every homeowner in America (hopefully) is support for this country and freedom to display evidence of patriotism during a very difficult time, and when emotions run high, disputes often get vicious and very personal.

My advice to homeowner associations is to get busy today in revamping the flag flying policy in your association, especially if you have severe restrictions. As many of you may have realized by now, a choice of U.S. flags are not readily available, and many of the flag producing companies will be months in getting distribution up to the level of demand. Therefore, any association that requires a certain size or type of flag for uniformity purposes may be at odds with homeowners who are simply unable to comply. Associations that have hanging restrictions on balconies and so forth might want to look at allowing homeowners to adorn their balconies with flags of various types. Associations that have control over the grounds may want to assist in, offer, or suggest placement for benefits of uniformity. For example, if an association presents to its owners a uniform plan for flag flying and most of the people comply, you might end up with a fairly decorative and very patriotic showing that is also pleasing to the eye. If the Association is concerned about flag holders being attached to buildings carelessly, the association might get involved in, offer, or suggest means of installation that would minimize the damage to the buildings. Associations that publish the rules of flag etiquette will not only be helping their community, but helping themselves. Those rules are:

1. The flag should be raised at or after sunrise and removed before dusk unless it is illuminated by a light.

2. The flag should be raised quickly (if it is on a pole) and lowered more slowly and ceremoniously.

3. The flag should never be allowed to touch the ground.

4. California law prohibits flying any flag or banner above the US flag (Civil Code Section 617), except for church banners when services are in session.

I believe the association boards of directors that get on board and get proactive in this situation will be less likely to get into a vicious dispute that will end up as headline news.

Flag Flying - It's American - And We Are In A Crisis.

PLEASE NOTE THAT SINCE THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN, CALIFORNIA PASSED A NEW LAW WITH EVEN MORE RIGHTS FOR OWNERS WHO WANT TO FLY FLAGS - SEE FYI - JULY 1, 2002 FOR MORE!

by Beth A. Grimm, Bay Area Attorney, practicing exclusively in the area of homeowner association law, member of the ECHO Legal and East Bay Resource Panels, Public Relations Chair - of the California Legislative Action Committee (a branch of the Community Associations Institute - California Chapters), and author of two books and a bimonthly newsletter addressing homeowner association issues.

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By Beth A. Grimm, Attorney. A "service oriented" attorney and member of ECHO and CAI and various other industry organizations in California and nationally, host of the website www.californiacondoguru.com; two Blogs: California Condominium & HOA Law Blog, and Condolawguru.com Blog, and author of many helpful community association publications which can be found in the webstore on her site.

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