We've tried to warn you time and time again: Just because you're the homeowner doesn't mean you can do whatever you want with your house. When you live under the bylaws of a homeowners association, you have to follow their rules as to what you can display on the exterior of your home and in your yard. That sometimes means no angel statues, no American flags (even if you're a vet) and a host of other inconveniences. For one woman, it means that she can't make a public show of support for the church that changed her life.
Meagan Schmidt of Katy, Texas, has a sign advertising The Journey Church in her front yard. "It's an awesome church," Schmidt told Houston TV station Fox 26. "I love what they do for the community." But the Highland Creek Village Homeowners Association has said that the sign violates a bylaw prohibiting commercial signage in yards. Schmidt says that bylaw violates her right to free speech and religious expression.
She told Fox 26 that she went to an HOA meeting to discuss the sign, but the organization's leaders were argumentative. They have told her to communicate through the HOA's attorneys and have threatened to take her to court to have the sign removed, Schmidt said. She said that she's going to fight back, and she isn't taking down the sign in her yard. Schmidt rents the home that she lives in, but her home's owner, who was not identified in the Fox 26 report, says that he supports Schmidt's right to keep the sign in the yard. The homeowner reportedly has even paid fines levied by the HOA over the sign.
Highland Creek Village Homeowners Association said in a statement to Fox 26 -- which the station posted on its Facebook page -- that it has a history of trouble with the homeowner renting to Schmidt. "Highland Creek Village goes to great lengths to work with owners to avoid problems," the statement reads. "However, the owner of this property has been charged with failure to cut the grass, and posting a commercial sign. The homeowner, unfortunately, was charged for cutting the grass on one occasion as the tenants flat out stated to the Association that the deed restrictions do not apply to them."
See the whole story on Fox 26 Houston 26.
HOAs do sometimes have complete say over what kinds of signs, if any, you can put in your yard without fear of breaking any laws. When it comes to political signs, for example, HOAs can ban any and all displays if there are no state and local laws that say otherwise -- and they can do so without fear of violating the First Amendment.
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