A Very Emotional Fight !
                         By Jan Bergemann

The legal battle for flying flags in deed-restricted communities is going on for years all over the nation. It has been fought on a very emotional battleground and the parties involved seem to be unwilling to give any ground. 

The story of the Florida Jupiter Flag Man, George Andres, and the Virginia court battle of Richard Oulton was waged long before the terrorist attacks on September 11.

There is one argument being made against this emotional issue: 
You knew the CC&Rs (or Deed Restrictions) before you moved in. It says : no flag-pole in your front yard! 

Well, that is clearly the fairy tale used by the industry in defense of law-suits, which are piling up in homeowners' associations. The CC&Rs are mostly written in a  language much too broadly. The wording can be interpreted any which way, depending how the HOA attorney and the management company like it, or the way they feel it's convenient. Many of the CC&Rs state for example : no lawn ornaments without approval of Architectural Review Committee. As a reasonable person would you consider a flag pole to fly Old Glory a "lawn ornament"? 
I guess you have to be part of the industry to come up with such a far fetched interpretation.
In an official statement the CAI (Community Association Institute )  has asked their members to ease off prosecuting "violators" of flag restrictions in light of the September terrorist acts. But just for about half a year, until this sudden show of patriotism dies down again? The Proposed Resolution is limited for 180 days.

Please don't forget that quite a few of these communities use this fine system to add to the income and to avoid having to have Special Assessments. In cases like this it's always great to be a friend of a board member. Because Selective Enforcement is the Name of the Game!

The fairy tale in question is: DISCLOSURE. Despite the fact that many States require disclosure to home buyers, none is known to enforce it. 
In Florida F.S. 689.26 Disclosure Statement Summary  is often quoted, but never enforced! And so the industry often plainly ignores it. There have been enough cases where homeowners found out they are living in a HOA only after they received a reminder from a management company over unpaid HOA dues more than half a year after they moved in. So much for disclosure or the argument that the homeowner knew before what he/she was getting into. The fact is : 90% of the homeowners buying into a HOA are not being honestly informed what the real deal is, or that developers are known to change the CC&Rs in midstream without notifying the homeowners. Just a little amendment?

All this is done under the cover-up of protecting property values. First : that's another great story to fool innocent home buyers. There is absolutely no proof that property values are better protected in a deed-restricted community. Actually, in our area lots outside the homeowners' associations increased much more in value than inside our HOA.

And do you honestly believe that your neighbor flying "Old Glory" in a respectful manner from a flag pole will lower your or your neighbor's property values?
Please, get real! Don't fall for the false advertising of the industry, wanting you to believe that living in a deed-restricted community is "carefree living"! Believe me, it's not, and it's getting worse by the day!

What is wrong in a country where you need the permission of an "Architectural Review Board" of a private corporation to fly "Old Glory" from a flagpole in your own private front yard, officially owned and paid for by you?
I would say :"Nearly everything!"
I guess our founding fathers would turn in their graves if they would know what is really going on here!

But it seems like our politicians are finally willing to get involved in this battle.  A great statement by Florida Governor Jeb Bush and a News Release from Arizona State Senators seem to get things on the right track. Some Florida legislators tried to pass HB 21 B(successful, see article) and SB 098 B in a recent special session, but it died in the Committee.
Great Editorials have been printed all over the Nation. 
Articles like : "Hanging On Tight to Patriotism" filled the news media.
In an Open Letter dated 9-29-2001 our organization asked our politicians to take care of these problems, where homeowners are in danger of loosing their homes battling these issues.
A Proposed Resolution was suggested, which could be used until a final solution can be agreed upon.

But the hope of all Florida homeowners hinges in the newly proposed bills for the next regular session. 
Senator Geller filed SB 148, Representative Sobel Companion bill HB 177.
Senator Cowin filed SB 150 and Representative Baxley Companion Bill HB 331

And our Florida Governor Jeb Bush assured us in an e-mail dated 11-16-2001 :
(Quote) "I will support a bill to allow flagpoles to exist in deed restricted communities. It will be done in the regular session. I am not on any game.
Jeb Bush"
Thank you, Governor, for this great statement!
Please see our Dispatch dated 11 - 18 - 2001

But as mentioned before, none of these prefiled bills addresses the issue of flag poles and/or brackets. In my personal opinion they are an open invitation for abusive boards and inventive attorneys for more law-suits. SB 150 and HB 331 even threaten violators of this section with a misdemeanor of the second degree. But who guarantees that violations will be prosecuted? Please remember that the office of our General Attorney Bob Butterworth is claiming that they can't prosecute violations of fraudulent landsales, a felony of the third degree,
according to F.S. 498.022 , for lack of funds.  Developers all over Florida are taking advantage of the opportunity to ignore these laws without having to fear the wrath of any prosecution, knowing full well that most homeowners just can't afford the expense of seeking justice in a civil court!

             How will this problem finally be solved?

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