By Kurt Rohrs |
IronOaks Homeowners’ Association in Sun Lakes has been misinforming its residents. They are telling them that they cannot put up campaign signs in their yards until 71 days before the general election on November 8, 2022.
That is not true.
Communication from the Maricopa County Elections Office confirmed that fact and referenced Arizona state law, ARS 33-1808 (C), which clearly states that HOAs can only regulate political yard signs under the following specific conditions, including placement of signs 71 days before the primary election which was on August 2, 2022.
“ ….Notwithstanding any provision in the community documents, an association shall not prohibit the indoor or outdoor display of a political sign by an association member on that member’s property, except that an association may prohibit the display of political signs as follows:
1. Earlier than seventy-one days before the day of a primary election (which was on August 2, 2022).
2. Later than fifteen days after the day of the general election” (which is on November 8, 2022).
When confronted with this discrepancy, several HOA staff members repeatedly responded with the refrain of “We have to follow our own rules and regulations.” Apparently, they are oblivious to the fact that Arizona state law clearly takes precedence over any HOA rule. That is what “… Notwithstanding any provision in the community documents …” in this statute literally means. This homeowners’ association simply cannot act as law unto themselves.
Cease and Desist
A cease-and-desist letter was hand-delivered to Veronica Semey, IronOaks’ HOA Director of Community Services, on August 26, 2022 demanding that the IronOaks Homeowners’ Association do the following:
1. Immediately, cease and desist from incorrectly informing residents that they cannot have campaign signs in their yards.
2. Within thirty days, publish a communication to every resident in the HOA correctly informing them of their rights under ARS 33-1808 regarding placement of campaign signs.
3. Within sixty days, update the HOA rules and regulations so that they are fully compliant with ARS 33-1808.
Upon delivery of this letter, the HOA threatened fines and sanctions if its clearly illegal rules were not complied with. This is in spite of the fact that their improper prohibitions were actually due to expire in a matter of a few days. This appears to be a petty and vindictive threat of retaliation that smacks of bureaucratic intimidation and bullying that many residents have become so disappointed with.
Another ploy that was advanced was to direct an appeal of any improper sanctions to the HOA board. This ignores the fact that the HOA board does not sit in judgment regarding Arizona statutes. It is expected to be in full and complete compliance with them as written.
There are other miscommunications by the HOA regarding political signs and campaigning.
Number of Yard Signs
Many residents believe that they can only have one political yard sign in their yard.
This is also not true.
The actual ARS 33-1808 (D) statute reads that the “… the maximum aggregate total dimensions of all political signs on a member’s property shall not exceed nine square feet.” This is equivalent to three standard 18” x 24” signs.
Residents have also been led to believe that “door-knocking,” or residents going door to door to speak with their neighbors, is prohibited in the community.
This is also not true.
The actual ARS 33-1808 (H) statute states that there are only limited restrictions that an HOA can impose:
1. Restrict or prohibit the door-to-door political activity from sunset to sunrise.
2. Require the prominent display of an identification tag for each person engaged in the activity, along with the prominent identification of the candidate or ballot issue that is the subject of the support or opposition.
HOA Wars and Free Speech Rights
This situation is reminiscent of the “HOA Wars” from several years ago. Rogue HOAs that were abusing residents with tyrannical policies eventually had to be reined in by the Arizona legislature. The ARS 33-1808 legislation discussed here was most likely one of several statutes that were put in place to protect residents from the atrocious activities of HOA management teams.
These unlawful actions by the IronOaks Homeowners’ Association have deprived their residents of their rights to free speech that are guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and by Arizona state statute. They have also caused harm to political candidates who rely on their free speech rights to present their campaign messaging to potential voters in order to win elections.
Suppression of the civil right to free speech is certainly not the direction that our citizens want the country to be heading in. Now, it’s time for HOA Boards to make sure they are in full compliance with all local, state, and federal laws before they impose any rules and regulations on their residents.
Kurt Rohrs is a candidate for the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board. You can find out more about his campaign here.