When you join a home owners association you agree to comply with their rules, but what happens when their rules fly in the face of a federal law?
The story began before Memorial day when Master Sgt. Denise James placed 4-by-6-inch American flags in her garden, something she has done every year since she moved there in 2005. (You can see a photo of James and the flags here
James said she was threatened with fines if she did not remove them and she refused.
After Memorial Day, James received a letter telling her that the McKenzie Place Condominium Association was suing her for $1,000 plus court costs.
Their claim is that the flags were in what is considered a common area in condominiums, which is against their home owners association rules.
This brings about the question of what happens when home owner association rules come up against a federal law which makes the flag excluded from any such rule that a home owner association comes up with.
The law is Public Law 109-243
passed by the 109th congress which states:
SEC. 3. RIGHT TO DISPLAY THE FLAG OF THE UNITED
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.
The law was approved on July 24, 2006.
James states, "I didn’t understand it. Ever since I’ve been here in 2005, I always had flags out from May through September. In fact, I always used to have more stuff. I never had a problem," and she claims that a change in the condominium association’s board has led to this.
In late June the McKenzie Place Condominium Association tried to settle the case telling her that she could remove the flags, pay a $250 fine and they would drop the case.
But Robert W. Stevenson of the Mount Lebanon-based Stevenson Williams Management Company, which oversees McKenzie Place, said that hearing “has been postponed until August, and it may be postponed beyond that.”
The reporters that called for a comment from the home owners association have not received return phone calls.
Rules are made to be obeyed, but what happens when a group, or in this case a home owners association tries to enforce a rule that is contrary to a federal law already on the books?