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HOA deems flag display to be ‘unsightly’

Q: I would like your insight concerning a difference of opinion that I have with my association.

This concerns a display of the American flag. I enclose a copy of the association’s letter to me and the two photos that show this “unsightly” display.

I would appreciate your advice and guidance as to the propriety and validity of my position and what further procedure might I follow. Am I whistling Dixie?

A: The reader received a violation notice from the association pertaining to the American flag. In this case, the patriotic symbol of the American flag is affixed to the garage door panel. (It is 11-inch-by-6-inch in size).

In his letter to the association, he states “Display of the American flag is an expression of patriotism and support of our troops and allegiance to our country.

This symbol has been on my garage since the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy. To term such a display as ‘unsightly’ is reprehensible and reflects discredit upon our community. Whether it be cloth, decal, paper, plastic or other form, the American flag is never unsightly.

This is not a viable position for the board to adopt. The right to display the flag is protected under federal regulations that a lesser regulatory agency can not contravene.

The reader states that he does not believe that the symbol of the American flag on his garage is violating the covenants, section 10.10, which pertains to unsightly articles.

If the board compels its removal after so long, there is little doubt that it would discolor the garage door and require the painting to remove what would truly be an “unsightly” condition.

NRS 116.320 pertains to the right of a unit owner to display the American flag in “certain areas, conditions and limitations on the exercise of that right.”

First, the association shall not prohibit an owner’s right to display the American flag within the physical portion of the community that the owner has a right to occupy and use exclusively.

This simply means residents can’t fly the flag on the association’s common property.

The law defines the display of the American flag as one made of cloth, fabric or paper that is displayed from a pole or staff or in a window and, this is the big “and” is displayed in the manner that is consistent with 4 U.S.C. Chapter 1.

The term “display of the American flag” does not include a depiction or emblem of the flag that is made of balloons, flora, lights, paint, paving materials, roofing, siding or any other similar building, decorative or landscaping component.

The state law refers to the United States Code, Title 4. This code includes the use of the flag for advertising purposes, the mutilation of the flag, the display and use of the flag by civilians, time and occasions for display, position and manner of display. Here are some specific requirements from the federal code which has been incorporated into our state law:

1. It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset — the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

2. The flag should not be displayed when the weather is inclement unless you have an all weather flag on display.

3. The flag should not be displayed over the hood, top, sides, back of a vehicle.

4. The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.

The association was right to call attention to the reader that the symbol of the American flag should not be on the garage door. Instead of stating that the reader was in violation of the unsightly code of the covenants, a more politically correct letter would have cited NRS 116.320 and federal regulations of Title 4. By the way, in the code, there is a section entitled, “Respect for the flag.”

The reader indicated that the symbol has been on display since 9/11, and that there had been discussion by the board pertaining to the symbol in the past but took no action.

Perhaps, we can give this board the benefit of the doubt that their action to have a letter written was out of respect for the display of the American flag. Unfortunately, the letter sent did not carry that same respect for the display by deeming it “unsightly.”

Barbara Holland, certified property manager, broker and supervisory certified association manager, is president and owner of H&L Realty and Management Co. Questions may be sent to Association Q. & A., P.O. Box 7440, Las Vegas, NV 89125. Her fax number is 385-3759. Questions may be shortened and are subject to editing.

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