Can Georgia Associations Regulate Exterior Appearance of Homes or Prohibit Display of the American Flag?

Unless prohibited or restricted by its declaration, a Georgia association can “grant or withhold approval of any action” by a homeowner if the action would change the appearance of the lot, any structure on the lot, or the development as a whole.  O.C.G.A. §44-3-231(a).  Alternatively, an association can appoint or elect an “architectural control committee” to approve or disapprove cosmetic changes. Id.  Thus, as long as the declaration does not restrict the board’s powers, a Georgia association has considerable discretion in regulating exterior appearances of lots.  This could potentially include anything from exterior color, parking, and trash-can placement, to restrictions on above-ground pools and solar panels (which are specifically protected in a few states, but not in Georgia).

An exception to this general rule involves display of the American flag.  While Georgia’s law would, on its face, seem to permit an association to disallow display of the flag, the federal Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 (Pub.L. 109–243, 120 Stat. 572, enacted July 24, 2006) forbids homeowners associations from banning display of the American flag.   An association may limit the time, place, and manner in which the flag is displayed, as long as the limitation promotes a substantial interest of the association.