Even though no major elections are scheduled for 2005, as early as mid-September, Coloradoans may see more evidence of ballot issues and party candidates than in recent years. Section 2 of Senate Bill 100 opens the door for homeowners living within community associations to display political signs on their property up to forty-five days before an election and seven days following the day of the election. This new addition to the statutory mandates for community associations allows an association to regulate the size and number of political signs that an owner displays only if a city, town, or county ordinance also regulates political signs on residential property. If an ordinance exists, the association may not create more restrictive policies for its owners concerning political signs. If no ordinance exists, an association can only limit the number of signs that an individual owner places on her property to one sign per office or ballot issue contested in the pending election. But, where no ordinance controls, an owner cannot place signs larger than three feet by four feet on his property. Many Colorado cities, towns, and counties either do not have political sign regulations or have broad regulations that place few restrictions on the number and size of political signs permitted.
Given this new mandate, association members will likely see political signs blossoming around the neighborhood in the months to come. Depending on the number of contested political offices and ballot issues, and any applicable ordinances, a single homeowner may have a yard full of signs attesting to her stance on the issues. Aesthetic issues aside, this provision of Senate Bill 100 may have other effects on association living. Last fall, CNN Money, an on-line news source, ran an article about the impact of political signs on home sales. Those hand-lettered signs depicted in the CNN Money article may seem far-fetched, but the new law in Colorado does not clearly prohibit signs of that nature. Where once the neighbor's untended grass dismayed the anxious home-seller, could the neighbor's politics now become a source of tension?
For condominium associations, the effect of Senate Bill 100's political sign provision remains unclear. The language of the statute allows for the display of political signs "on that unit owner's property." Owners within condominium associations own an undivided interest in the common elements. This ownership interest could give rise to an argument that an individual owner is permitted to plant his political signs on the community common areas. Combine the owner assertion that common areas are fair game for political sign placement with the limited ability of the association to restrict the number and size of political signs that an owner may place on her property and community members will likely soon being see red, white, blue, and other candidate-specific colors. Associations can best limit the impact of this new law by devising rules and regulations related to the placement of political signs. Such rules and regulations may define specific areas that individual unit owners may place political signs and may require temporary removal of the signs for landscape maintenance purposes. Where practical, associations may benefit from getting community members involved in the rule-making process.
If your association needs assistance with developing policies related to this provision of Senate Bill 100, please do not hesitate to contact us.