Sign restrictions are often a bone of contention for homeowner associations. Free-speechers feel it's protected expression under the Bill of Rights while Community Beautification proponents advocate "sign free zones". The ideal is somewhere in the middle.

One of the attractions of living in a homeowner association is the ability to control the look and feel of the community. This is achieved by adopting standards that all residents must follow. In homeowner associations, the theory is that uniformity reinforces value while extremes generally detract. This principle applies to signs as well. When sign size, subject matter, look and location are not controlled, they detract from the community's residential character.

There are a number of considerations:

Size. When it comes to size, the basic 18" x 24" real estate sign usually passes muster. Smaller is better but bigger is not.

Type. There are several types of owner installed signs that are generally permitted: For Sale, For Rent and Garage Sale.

Duration. Non-association signs should be allowed on a temporary basis ranging from a few days (Garage Sale) to a few weeks (For Rent) to a few months (For Sale).

Location. Where they are placed is also an issue. Nailing signs to trees, buildings and fences is destructive and shabby looking. Requiring them to be mounted in metal frames like used by real estate agents is a reasonable standard.

How Many. In difficult to navigate communities, instead of Burma Shave-like directional signs plotting a path through the neighborhood to the goal, one directional sign with the address on a main arterial street should suffice.

Appearance. With the cost of professional looking signs very low, it makes sense to require all signs to be professional looking (no hand done or spray painted).

Content. While free speech has many forums, posting it on signs is not proper for homeowner associations.

Sign display is bound to be an issue of ongoing concern. Rather than having to repeatedly badger residents on the quality and content of theirs, establish a reasonable Sign Policy and sign off on it.

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