Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

November 27, 2006

Your Rights End Where My Contract Begins

by Doug Mataconis

There’s been some buzz created today about the story of a Colorado subdivision that has fined a homeowner for hanging a Christmas wreath shaped like a peace sign:

DENVER — A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.

“Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up,” he said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Lisa Jensen said she wasn’t thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. She said, “Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing.”

Except, Ms. Jensen you bought property in a community governed by a private contract that has a very specific rule:

The subdivision’s rules say no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee.

Apparently, no such permission was given. That would seem to be the beginning and end of this issue, wouldn’t it ?

Related Posts:

Public Rights vs. Private Contracts

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  • http://noangst.blogspot.com mike

    Heh, I’ve always found homeowner’s associations to be one of the biggest jokes in the world (probably just me being the rebellious college student) but ultimately the contract is correct.

    However stupid it appears.

  • John Newman

    From the article:
    Kearns ordered the committee to require Jensen to remove the wreath, but members refused after concluding that it was merely a seasonal symbol that didn’t say anything. Kearns fired all five committee members.

    A wreath is a sign, billboard, or advertising? Was the person advertising to sell wreaths? Did the contract prohibit wreaths?

  • Eric

    The wreath doesn’t seem, to me, to meet the definition of a sign, billboard or advertising. It’s a fairly normal holiday ornament. A peace sign is not any of those things either. It appears to me that Jensen is trying to use a contract to do something he can’t do otherwise, take down a symbol he doesn’t like. Firing the committee members is an interesting comment on Kearns, isn’t it?

    Now, if the contract said that you can’t have anything up that is a political statement, I would probably side with the HOA, not the homeowner.

  • http://noangst.blogspot.com mike

    I also liked the firing of the committee members.

    Do what I say, or I’ll find someone who will!

  • http://kponly.blogspot.com Ryan

    As silly as it is, the association is right; can’t have Satan in our town in the form of a Christmas wreath now can we?

  • marty

    I would say that 1) if there is an HOA contract and 2)it is enforced equally – i.e. no wreaths, nativities, reindeer etc. then it’s gotta go (they chose to live in a community of assholes, didn’t they) then work to get the president fired and the by-laws changed.

  • Eric

    The contract, according to the news story, doesn’t say no wreaths, nativities, etc. It says no advertising, signs or billboards. Ryan, the association isn’t right. It’s her property. She has chosen to agree to modify her property rights, but not in the way the HOA is trying to claim.

  • Eric

    Amazingly, Newman and I find ourselves on the same side on this one. Hmmmmmm.

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