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HOA fines veteran for displaying U.S. flag

A Florida veteran recently received a surprising notice from the homeowners' association of his Jacksonvilleommunity. The association informed the resident that displaying the U.S. flag in a flower pot in the front of his home violated community guidelines. As a result, the man has been informed that he must pay the association fines totaling $8,000. In addition, he has only 30 days to remove the flag and pay the fine or the association will initiate foreclosure proceedings.

Typically, a homeowners' association has the right to impose rules for the community, including home display regulations. However, Florida law says that a homeowner has a legal right to display the American flag, despite any contrary association rules. The only requirements are the the flag cannot be larger than four and a half by six feet, and that it must be displayed in a respectful manner. There was no indication that the veteran's flag is displayed in a disrespectful manner. It sits in a flower pot near his front door. The statute does not allow an association to dictate where the flag is placed. Thus, the homeowners' association does not have the legal ability to require that the flag be removed.

The homeowner settled a similar suit against the HOA in 2013. After the prior dispute was resolved, the association rewrote the rule. However, an association cannot make rules that violate state law. The veteran intends to fight the foreclosure and the fines so he can keep his home.

When a homeowners' association seeks to unlawfully foreclose on a person's home, a lawyer may be able to help fight the suit. It may also be possible to help seek a declaratory judgment asking a judge to rule on the legality of an action before foreclosure begins.

Source: Click Orlando, "Veteran faces foreclosure for U.S. flag", Patrick Santomauro, June 26, 2014

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