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February 6, 2009 - 12:00pm

Homeowners association tells couple they can't fly American flag

posted by Tasia Boland in Iraq War, patriotism, real estate.

My husband and I are house hunting, and recently we found a house we fell in love with except, it is part of a homeowners association. Now we have been asking friends and family what they know about homeowners associations. Today I heard about this story and am giving second thoughts to being involved in an association.

From the Morning Show with Mike and Juliet:

When their son was deployed to Iraq in October, Terry and Sue Lewton installed a flagpole outside their Loveland, Colo. home to fly the American flag 24 hours a day until his return. Sgt. Jason Lewton is still stationed in Iraq, but his parents’ homeowners association asked them to remove the 20-foot flagpole to maintain “the high standards of the community.” Sue Lewton refuses to remove the flag until her son comes home. The flagpole is not taller than the Lewtons’ home, the flag is kept in respectable condition, and they received no objections when they asked their immediate neighbors before installing the flagpole.

Lori Ann Santini
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I guess the question for you Tasia would be what means more to you - freedom of speech or a particular house? I am not against homeowners associations. I just will not submit myself to rules and regulations in addition to the ever increasing ones from towns and villages. Will the homeowner association pay your mortgage if you are out of work? Will they pay for a new paint scheme if the one you have doesn't quite work for them? By all means, if the house fits the budget and you love it then buy it. If you can picture your children preparing for their graduation, prom or wedding then don't hesitate. Nowadays however buying a house is on the side of the buyer. Keep looking. The fact that an association states a parent can't fly a flag in honour of son and country is sooooooo wrong. My answer is nope. No homeowners association for me.
Gabor Deutsch
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When they decided to sign papers and abide by the specific rules then you have to stick to those rules period. They are breaking the rules and are not following the guidelines they agreed to when they moved there. This is only an ethical or moral issue but they are still in the wrong legally. Once the rules are changed and they are allowed then everyone will be allowed to put up a flag, blah blah blah.
Gabor Deutsch
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Its not the American Flag they cannot fly, it is any flag on any flag pole. Thats a misleading title used to tug on the heart stings of patriotic americans. If you have a son or daughter serving our country it still doesnt give anyone the right to breech a contract.
Russ Stresing
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People buy houses in these developments or neighborhoods mostly because they want assurance that other people in the immediate area will be held to an agreed upon standard. They want to feel comfortable that no one will deviate from the uniformity of the community to any great degree, thus ensuring tranquility and protecting property values, so they subject themselves to rules and oversight. In this case,though, there's a service member, a loyal family, and the American flag involved, making this an emotional issue for many people. Personally, I find the whole idea of a homeowner's association a little creepy. There's a "Stepford Wives" smell to the concept that seems a little unnerving. Its not a group that checks up on safety or structural integrity concerns; its a group that says what colors you can paint your house and whether you can park your boat or RV in your own driveway. But, people buy properties in these neighborhoods exactly for those reasons, as the Lewtons probably did. "Admittedly, the Lewtons knew the 20-foot flagpole violated the covenants in their southeast Loveland neighborhood when they installed it in October." Its awful that they can't pay patriotic tribute to a family member who is in service to America, without question, but the regulations that they agreed to that ensured protection for them from others' deviation from the agreed upon norm have come back to haunt them.
Frank D'Angelo
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I'd like to make a few points on this subject. First, one should not paint every homeowners association with the same paintbrush. Every HOA is different. They are two edged swords......they have both good and bad points to them, but they need to be judged individually. They are not common around here, but are very common down south and out west, in the warmer climates, where 55+ communities are prevalent. My Florida home is in a gated 55+ golf community. It has an HOA. I studied the HOA in depth before I bought my home, and I did not find it restrictive at all. Yes, I can have a flagpole. I can do just about anything. There are a few things that if desired, like building an addition, etc, I first need to have it approved by an Architectural Review Committee. It is basically to insure compliance to current building codes, etc. This insures that although the homes in my neighborhood are all different and unique, they are all kept up, code compliant, and not a blight in the community. How many of you who live around here have one house in the neighborhood that is "the trashy house" on the street....not kept up, unsightly looking, just bringing the whole neighborhood down, with owners who just don't care. I don't have that problem in my Florida neighborhood. The truth of the matter is that I find many of our city of Batavia codes MORE restrictive then my Florida HOA. Weather or not you live with an HOA, we ALL live under rules. Try parking a car with no plates in your driveway here in the city..even for a day or two..you'll be fined. Try letting your grass grow tall in the city...you'll be fined. There are many other city rules that you may not be aware of...until you get a fine for breaking one of them. Now, I'm NOT saying that is wrong....just pointing out that we ALL live under some rules, weather you live in an HOA community or not. Some other HOA's are restrictive. In those cases, you can find many websites whose purpose is to show that legally, many HOA's are on shaky ground, and can be fought when needed. Bottom line, read first before buying. Don't judge all HOA's as being the same.
Adama Brown
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In my experience even the most well-meaning "homeowners associations" tend to be magnets for petty authoritarian types, the people who get itchy all over if even the most minor of their thousand and one rules are broken: watering the law on Tuesday instead of Wednesday, unapproved flags, flowers too brightly colored, etcetera. Of course, they can never really justify their rules, but that doesn't stop them from trying to enforce them. I know that not all HOAs are like that, but there's a very good reason why that stereotype exists.

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