A few weeks ago, we hired a contractor to do some painting at our house. As many contractors do, he put a sign in our yard while he was there. He didn’t ask us for permission, but if he had we would have given it to him. A few days later, in fact after the painter and his sign were gone, we received a nastygram from our homeowner’s association informing us that our covenants prohibit any signs in the yard other than a sign advertising the property for sale. I noticed that there is no exception for political signs, and I wondered why we had not received a nastygram a few years ago when we put a candidate’s sign in our yard before an election.
Greg pointed out that Indiana law, specifically Ind. Code § 32‑21‑13‑4,* prohibits homeowners’ associations from adopting or enforcing rules prohibiting certain types of signs on a homeowner’s property from thirty days before an election until five days after an election. It applies only to signs that meet one or more of the following descriptions:
- The sign advocates for the election or defeat of one or more political candidates for either nomination or election to a public office.
- The sign expresses support for or opposition to a political party or a political party’s candidates.
- The sign advocates the approval or disapproval of a public question.
In other words, the statute applies to signs for or against candidates in either a primary or general election, signs supporting or opposing a party, and signs urging people to vote for or against a referendum question. Curiously, it does not apply to signs encouraging people to vote without taking a position on any particular candidate, party, or referendum question.
While a homeowners’ association cannot outright prohibit signs during an election period, some regulation is nonetheless permissible. Homeowners’ associations can:
- Restrict the size of signs, as long as signs of the size commonly used during election campaigns are permitted. Want to put out a sign that measures two feet by three feet? Not a problem. A billboard? Your homeowners’ association may have something to say about that.
- Restrict the number of signs that can be displayed, as long as the homeowner is permitted to display at least a reasonable number of signs.
- Restrict the specific location of a sign, but the rules cannot prohibit signs in the homeowners’ window or on the ground that is part of the homeowners’ property.
In addition a homeowners’ association can remove a sign that violates a permissible rule.
So that answers a lot of questions, but as often happens with the law, it raises a bunch of others. Look for another article addressing some of them.
* If you follow the links to the Indiana Code, be patient. The state’s website is slow to jump to the specific place on the page, but it will eventually get there.