ORLANDO, Fla. - With the November election approaching, Homeowners' Associations across Central Florida are cracking down on political lawn signs.
Orange County residents, Deena and Bob Adelson were stunned when they received a letter from their Phillips Landing Homeowners' Association telling them their Romney yard sign is prohibited.
"What? This is freedom of speech, whatever happened to that?," asked Deena Adelson.
Her husband, Bob Adelson, said "the HOA does a beautiful job of keeping this place very, very nice and secure, but you lose that security when the rights of the individual are taken away."
So Deena Adelson decided to air her frustration on Facebook.
"And then all of a sudden all these people started posting and saying 'What? I can't believe it. You're not going to do that are you?'" said Deena Adelson.
And the answer is yes, Adelson did remove the sign because she has to.
"The owner's going to lose," said Local 6 legal expert Luis Calderon.
Calderon says despite the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, in almost all sign disputes, the HOA will prevail. While courts typically rule against local or state governments that restrict political signs, HOAs are private entities and can create their own rules.
"And the thing is that they're not discriminating on the grounds of what kind of speech it is," said Calderon. "You can restrict speech on time, manner and place."
Calderon says such rules are meant to protect residents from cases of extreme, even offensive signage, so in the Adelson's neighborhood all signs must go. He says the rules apply even if residents never signed a contract. When people buy property that is governed by an HOA, the by-laws transfer with the deed.
But each HOA is different. For example, in Orlando's Baldwin Park neighborhood, the HOA says residents are allowed one political sign per house.
There are also some states, such as Texas and Washington, that prohibit HOAs from prohibiting political signs.
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