An Owner's Freedom To Display The U.S. Flag In An HOA Community

Although a Homeowners Association (HOA) has the authority to rule a community in accordance with its governing documents, the Association's scope of authority is limited under federal and state laws. For instance, an Association cannot adopt, or enforce a rule that prohibits owners from displaying the United States flag on their residential property, because the owners have the right to do so, under the law.

The Right To Display The American Flag

The Freedom to Display The American Flag Act of 2015 (the "Act"), which was signed into law in July 2006, was written to protect the right to display the American flag, and prevent Homeowners Associations from adopting and enforcing any policy that would violate the owners' freedom to do so. Specifically, the Act declares that: 

 

A condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association with respect to which such member has a separate ownership interest or a right to exclusive possession or use.

 

However, under the Act, Homeowners Associations have the right to set restrictions that would limit the time, place, or way of displaying the flag, only if said restrictions are (1) reasonable, (2) necessary to protect a substantial interest of the association, and (3) do not violate the United States Flag Code (the "Code").  The actual language of the Act notes that:

 

Nothing in this Act shall be considered to permit any display or use that is inconsistent with--

(1) any provision of chapter 1 of title 4, United States Code, or any rule or custom pertaining to the proper display or use of the flag of the United States (as established pursuant to such chapter or any otherwise applicable provision of law); or

(2) any reasonable restriction pertaining to the time, place, or manner of displaying the flag of the United States necessary to protect a substantial interest of the condominium association, cooperative association, or residential real estate management association.

 

Time And Occasions For Display of The American Flag

Chapter 1, Title 4, Section 6 of the Code, offers specific guidelines for the time and occasions for the display of the American flag. With particular note, the Code declares that the "flag should be displayed on all days," especially on the following 41 days of the year:

  • New Year’s Day
  • January 1
  • Inauguration Day
  • January 20
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday
  • Third Monday in January
  • Lincoln’s Birthday
  • February 12
  • Washington’s Birthday
  • Third Monday in February
  • Easter Sunday (variable)
  • Mother’s Day
  • Second Sunday in May
  • Armed Forces Day
  • Third Saturday in May
  • Memorial Day (half-staff until noon)
  • The last Monday in May
  • Flag Day
  • June 14
  • Father’s Day
  • Third Sunday in June
  • Veterans Day
  • November 11
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Fourth Thursday in November
  • Christmas Day
  • December 25
  • Other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States
  • The birthdays of States (date of admission)
  • State holidays
  • Independence Day
  • July 4
  • National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day
  • July 27; Labor Day
  • First Monday in September
  • Constitution Day
  • September 17
  • Columbus Day
  • Second Monday in October
  • Navy Day
  • October 27

Tips For Displaying The American Flag

It is crucial that owners check their Association's rules, and local statutes for additional guidance on this topic by visiting www.hopb.co/StateLaws. Moreover, it is also important that owners take certain precautions when handling, and displaying the American flag. Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7 of the Code, details the position and manner for displaying the flag.

Furthermore, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8, of the Code outlines the ground rules that establish respect for the flag, and specifically notes that "[n]o disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor." In particular, Section 8 provides that: 

 

(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

(b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.

(d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.

(e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.

(f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.

(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

(h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.

(j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.

(k) The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

 

All things considered, let's practice our right to display the United States flag with pride, and in memory of all military members who have fought, and continue to risk their lives to defend our right to freedom.  This article was designed to provide owners with general guidance, information, and knowledge of their right to display the American flag. It is not a substitute for legal research and advice.