Q&A:Politically-Speaking

Q Can a condo board legally prohibit any political activity by its residents? Most condo documents say that “the association shall not engage in any political activity.” The board usually interprets it to mean that there shall be no political activity by anyone. No one seems to have a definitive answer, even our attorney, as to who it refers to.

—Community Association Citizen

A “The quoted language does not refer to the activities of the individual residents/members but, rather, to the activities of the condominium association as a legal entity, and expresses an intention regarding the purposes for which the association was formed,” says attorney Gregory M. Dyer, a partner at the law firm of McCarter & English, LLP. “Thus, the quoted language does not prohibit individual unit owners from engaging in political activity. The question remains, however, whether the board of a condominium association may prohibit political activity by residents of the community.

“The Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed a community association’s ability to restrict residents’ political activities in Committee for a Better Twin Rivers v. Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association, 192 N.J. 344 (2007). In that case, some residents challenged certain rules and regulations enacted by a homeowners’ association including a rule governing the posting of political signs in the community. Resident activities such as the posting of political signs implicate New Jersey constitutional guarantees of free expression. The Court held that any restrictions imposed by a community association on the exercise of state constitutional rights of free speech and assembly must be reasonable as to time, place and manner. Id. at 368.

“In Twin Rivers, the Association’s sign policy permitted residents to place one sign in each window of their residence and outside in the flower beds within three feet of the residence. The residents who challenged this policy sought to post political signs beyond the Association’s restrictions. The Court found that the Association’s restrictions concerning the placement of signs were reasonable as to time, place and manner and concluded that the Association’s policy did not violate the homeowners’ rights under the New Jersey Constitution. Id.

“The board of a condominium association may, through the adoption of rules and regulations or otherwise, restrict the political activities of residents. However, such restrictions must be reasonable as to time, place and manner. A rule or policy which has the effect of prohibiting all political activity by residents—at any time, in any place, and in any manner—as your question suggests, would not be considered reasonable and, therefore, would be deemed unenforceable.”

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