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Condo association and The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005

American flag on white house

Betty has some questions about flying the American flag at condos.

I am in a new condo development, where we are developing rules. Each building is a duplex of 2 patio homes. Can we restrict the display to one flag per duplex mounted on a specific wall shared by both units? Given the design, there is no room to display a flag near the front door or patio.  Also, can the association require, at the homeowners expense, that a specific bracket be used and installed by an approved contractor? Surface is brick, placement is crucial and proper drill bits are needed to preserve the integrity if the brick.

American flag on white house
U.S. flag on white house with tree

Hi Betty. The condo development is very smart to consider these ideas in a pro-active way. The goal of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005  was protect both the homeowners and property management, but there are still problems in execution.

The law protects each homeowner, so limiting a duplex to one (shared) flag would be a violation of the law. And I think there would be problems with ownership, responsibility, maintenance, et cetera with a shared flag. The owner in Side A might be willing to buy the best flag available, and the owner in Side B might be satisfied with buying a flag from a road-side vendor.

Certainly the condo association can enact specific rules regarding installing a flag mount, but if the rules are onerous, they will be challenged. As you are doubtless aware, there have been numerous stories this summer about homeowners running afoul of their HOA over flying the American flag. The negative publicity to the HOAs and management companies has been terrible, even when they were in compliance with the law, and the homeowner was not.

A necessary tension exists between the homeowner and the HOA or condo association. The homeowner’s right to display an American flag is absolute, but the “management” has a fiduciary responsibility to the entire development, and does have the right to set reasonable standards.

What if the condo development association bought top-quality flag mounts and installed them at each condo, precisely where they wanted them, as a courtesy to each homeowner. If the homeowner doesn’t want to display a flag—no problem (just ignore the flag mount), and for those who want to fly a flag, the flag mount is already there. The condo standards are maintained, and the homeowner has a choice in his flag purchase.

For what it’s worth, the facings on garage doors are a popular area for flag mounts. I see it quite often in condo and townhouse locations.

The text of the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 can be found in Section 5 of the U.S. Flag Code.

6 thoughts on “Condo association and The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005

  1. Thank you so much! The info clarifies our choices. And I had not thought of mounting on the garage door frame. Proactively installing brackets everywhere will prevent issues. In the mean time, I’ve heard of another good proactive approach. It was a condo assoc that offered a quality flag, pole and bracket at cost, and free installation by a volunteer that had the proper tools/drill bits. That approach has a lot of merit, good matching flags, always installed well in the right location. No issues with the right to display a flag with that, right?

    1. No issues with the right to display a flag with that, right? No. Betty, there will always be someone who does not like the condo association’s “flag code.” It’s human nature.

      Any number of people may happily, willingly live in identical condos, but there are a lot of people who are fiercely independent when it comes to their American flag. And there are still some ways that condo owners can display their flags, that the condo association cannot prevent. A window display for example; that is an old and honored method of showing the flag, and the flag displayed falls completely within the homeowner’s condo. Another way might be by suspending the flag by the hoist side and hanging it vertically inside a porch ceiling or a patio roof/cover. Once again, it is completely within the bounds of the homeowner’s property. Challenges to these forms of display by a HOA or condo association rarely win in arbitration.

      You must also be aware that eventually someone will want to put up his own flagpole. I assume duplex condos have minimal yards, but the condo association needs to carefully consider this possibility. Telling some grizzled old veteran that he can’t have his own flagpole is a national news nightmare regardless of what the condo bylaws say. And as long as the flag is restricted to daylight hours only, there’s really no compelling reason to nix a small flagpole. However, a flag snapping in the breeze at night makes enough sound to travel a long way, and possibly disturb the neighbors, whereas sound from a daytime flag is negligible. Of course, you might need to remind the grizzled old veteran that even the American flag on military bases comes down at night (and flags flown during daylight hours only last nearly three times as long as flags flown 24/7).

      But, I believe most people would happily use a system that the condo association already has in place, especially one provided as a complete service, with flags and replacement flags readily available at minimal expense. It’s a fabulous idea. I don’t think you could insist that flags be bought only from the condo association. I believe that would be challenged and fail (it amounts to a monopoly on the American flag), but I do believe the advantage of replacement flags conveniently available would be brilliant public relations. The condo association could also provide a receptacle for worn out flags until they could be handed off for a retirement ceremony.

      I am not a lawyer, so I hope that you review anything I suggest with the condo association’s legal representatives. But I have been reading and writing about the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act since 2007, and I can tell you which way the wind is blowing. Let me encourage the condo association be as generous as possible when considering homeowner’s rights to display the flag. The goodwill (and good publicity) created by such a policy will be repaid beyond measure, and such generosity would weigh mightily in the event of arbitration.

      Best wishes, Betty. Please follow up and let me know how the condo association writes their flag provision. It could serve as a model for condos associations everywhere. I am so pleased that they are thinking ahead.

      Deborah Hendrick

  2. Deborah. Good to see you back on here although I find this website a little difficult to navigate. Must be the GI in me. Reading some of your comments/advise I see you’re still on track with the flag code. Good job! Keep it up.

    1. Hi Sarge. How nice to hear from you. I’m sorry you had trouble with the website—it is a work in progress. We recently moved—so I have fallen behind in new postings but I’m finally seeing some daylight. Best wishes, Deborah

  3. Hello Deborah,
    I’ve been trying to find my way back to a blog on which I was discussing with you the issues I’m having with my neighborhood HOA. The blog was titled “Freedom to Fly the American Flag Act –Again” but when I clicked the link from my last email I got the “404” error message. I last posted in August 2014. If this finds its way to you, please let me know — I have some updated information I’d like to get your opinion on.
    I’m Delia, from Tennessee. Hoping to hear from you!

  4. we have a stinky neighbor who objects to our flying the flag from our lanai. The pole & flag are NOT attached to any common area but they do extend out over the exterior edge of the lanai. I guess the question is, Who controls the airspace? Can the association because of this one objecting owner prohibit us from fly the flag in this manner?

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