The election season of 2020 saw an unprecedented number of owners flying flags to show their patriotism and to support their preferred candidate which led to many questions from board members about flags and flag policies.
Under Ohio law, community associations cannot prohibit the display of the U.S. flag, the State of Ohio flag, and various U.S. service flags, including the POW/MIA flag, blue star banners, and gold star banners; however, the association does have control over the placement and size of these types of flags and flag poles. Unless otherwise stated in the Declaration or the Bylaws, a board can prohibit or limit the display of other flags, such as seasonal flags, political flags, team flags, and school flags. The board may also prohibit or limit the time when certain flags can be displayed, such as only allowing political flags to be displayed for a certain amount of time before and after an election. An association must also allow service flags to be displayed in the window of a residence if that residence has a member of the immediate family that is currently serving or has previously served in the military.
If your association does not currently have a flag policy, the board should consider adopting one. As with all rules and policies, any rules related to the display of flags cannot contradict any provisions in the Declaration or Bylaws of the association. A flag policy should include a requirement that the flag and the flagpole be of an appropriate size relative to the size of the buildings and appearance of the community. Any association rules regarding the display of the U.S flag, the State of Ohio flag, or any of the various U.S. service flags must comply with the Federal Flag Code. Some of the requirements of the Federal Flag Code include:
- Traditional guidelines state the U.S. flag should only be displayed in public from sunrise to sunset; however, the flag may be displayed at all hours if illuminated during darkness.
- If multiple flags are flown on the same staff, the U.S. flag must be at the top.
- The U.S. flag should not be subject to weather damage, so the flag should not be displayed during rain or snow storms unless it is an all-weather flag.
- The U.S. flag should never touch anything beneath it.
This past election season resulted in board members receiving lots of calls and complaints from owners about the display of political flags. Now is a good time to review your association’s governing documents and rules related to flags and to enact any updates that are warranted.