Every homeowner association relies on permanent signs to point the way and improve behavior. A directory and map sign guides guests, vendors and ambulances to member homes. Entry signs establish a community's identity and theme. "No Parking" signs warn of dire consequences. Pet signs remind of neighborly responsibility.

Regardless of the message, HOA signs should be attractive, noticeable and few. Many HOAs establish a size, placement, number and color standard for signs. Some even require that real estate "For Sale" and "For Rent" signs conform to the standards.

Temporary signs come in the form of "Garage Sale," "For Sale," "For Rent," "Pet Lost," political and special event signs. Political signs, in particular, multiply like rabbits when left unchecked and the HOA landscape can quickly be festooned with them. While the HOA has the right to control member-placed signs, an outright ban would usually raise a hue and cry of "Free Speech."

It's best to lay out reasonable criteria such as: The number of signs should be limited to two per home and should not exceed 18" x 24" in size. The signs should not be placed in the common area but in the window. They must be removed promptly when the event has taken place (sold, rented, election or event held, etc.). Political signs can be displayed no earlier than 30 days prior to the election or vote.

The HOA can also use temporary signs to raise awareness. Posting signs relating to security awareness, speeding vehicles and pet patrolling can often be more effective when temporary and moved around to different locations. Permanent signs tend to fade into the landscape.

Older HOAs tend to accumulate signs that have outlived their usefulness, have become dilapidated or both. Why not survey the neighborhood and see how many should go away? Curb appeal is fundamental to market value so this is one way the HOA can safeguard member asset values. Clearly defining HOA signage will help maintain an uncluttered and manicured look.

For a sample Sign Policy, see Policy Samples.

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