Williams Birnberg & Andersen, L.L.P. : Attorneys at Law : Houston, Texas
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Lou Burton was the principal author of Chapter 202 of the Texas Property Code dealing with construction and enforcement of restrictive covenants. He also represented the prevailing homeowner's association in the landmark Texas Supreme Court case, Inwood North Homeowner's Association, Inc. v. Harris, 736 S.W.2d 632 (Tex. 1987), which established the validity of assessment liens throughout the state of Texas. Mr. Burton serves managing attorney of Williams, Birnberg & Andersen, L.L.P.'s community associations division.
Article by Mr. Burton: Construction Law
Homeowners Associations
Political Signs – New Law Says Homeowners’ Associations Cannot Prohibit Them

Some homeowners’ associations may not have gotten the word yet that they may no longer prohibit property owners from displaying political signs on their property, even if deed restrictions or restrictive covenants purport to ban the practice.

Effective June 18, 2005, Texas law provides that a homeowners’ association may not enforce or adopt restrictive covenants that prohibit property owners from displaying political signs on the property owners’ property. Permitted political signs include those advertising either a political candidate or a proposition or other item on the ballot. Property owners cannot be prohibited from displaying such signs (on their own property) during the period of time beginning 90 days before an election to which the sign relates and continuing until 10 days after the election is held.

Restrictive covenants which require a sign to be ground-mounted (as opposed to, for example, displayed in a window or on the side of a home) or limiting a property owner to one sign for each candidate or ballot item are enforceable, but only if the restriction is contained in a restrictive covenant. Mere rules or by-laws passed by a homeowners’ association are probably insufficient to allow enforcement of even these two limitations on a homeowner’s right to display political signs.

A group of homeowners can also adopt a covenant which prohibits signs (a) containing roofing material, siding, paving materials, flora, balloons, light, or similar building, landscaping, or “nonstandard” decorative components, (b) are attached to plants, traffic control devices, a light, a trailer, a vehicle, or any other existing structure or object (as opposed to ground-mounted), (c) which include the painting of architectural surfaces, (d) which threaten the public health or safety, (e) which are larger than four feet by six feet, (f) which violates a law, (g) which contain language, graphic, or any display that would be offensive to the ordinary person, or (h) that are accompanied by music or other signs or streamers or is otherwise distracting to motorists.

BUT those restrictions are enforceable only if specifically contained in restrictive covenants prohibiting such signs. Absent such restrictive covenants, even those limitations cannot be enforced. If such restrictions are adopted, a property owners’ association may remove a sign displayed in violation of the restrictive covenants permitted by the new law. However, doing requires careful attention to and compliance with other applicable laws (such as those prohibiting trespassing, which may not apply where entry onto a homeowner’s property for this purpose is authorized by valid restrictive covenants).

The law is Texas Property Code section 202.009. The lawyers at Williams, Birnberg & Andersen, L.L.P. stand ready to assist homeowners’ association in drafting appropriate covenants to allow associations to enforce the limitations on political signs allowed by Texas law and to advise associations concerning how to enforce those rights and other HOA issues.

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