Has your landlord put up a political sign in your yard which you disagree with and want to know if they have the right to do this?
In this article, I am going to answer whether such conduct is permitted and what you can do if it happens.
If you want the short answer, it is as follows:
As a general matter, a landlord may put political signs in the yard of a rental property if it is permitted under the lease and complies with applicable laws and regulations and any applicable HOA rules around signage. If the lease is silent on the topic, the answer may turn on a variety of factors, including relevant case law on political or other signage.
As you can see, the answer is somewhat complex and really depends on the facts and circumstances of your situation. But not to worry – we’ll break all of this down in a way that’s simple and easy to understand. Let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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Does the Law Prohibit My Landlord From Placing Political Signs in the Yard?
There’s no one rule for states about displaying political signs on properties.
In California, for example, there are some pretty clear rules around a tenant’s right to put political signs on their windows or door (if part of a multi-unit complex) or in their yard if they are leasing a single family dwelling. Source
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a similar provision relating to a landlord’s right to post signs in the yard, but at least you may be able to counteract a landlord’s signage with your own if you are in California and are subject to the protection of this law.
Other jurisdictions have different laws, of course. In Massachusetts, there is case law covering the topic of signage rights.
The 1982 case of Nyer v. Munoz-Mendoza reversed an injunction prohibiting the tenant’s right to post signs on her door that protested the owner’s plan to convert the units to condominiums. In other words, they found that the tenant may post this anti-landlord sign on the outside door.
The court found that the tenant had this right, even though the lease was silent on the issue and cited prior cases like Lowell v. Strahan, 145 Mass. 1, 8-11, (1887) and Leominster Fuel Co. v. Scanlon, 243 Mass. 126 (1922) to support its position.
Now this case does not address whether the tenant (or the landlord for that matter) may put political signs in the yard and the rules may be different in that situation. That’s because you are not renting out the yard in a multi-family building and therefore your leasehold interests do not extend that far.
The bottom line is that if you want a precise answer to whether your landlord may legally place political signs in your yard, you will need to check your state and local laws, including case law precedents to see how courts have interpreted the issue in your jurisdiction. If are serious about doing this, it is best to hire a lawyer who will conduct that research for you.
Check Your Lease
In addition to legal rules around signage, you should check your lease to see what it says about signage on the property. In some cases, your lease may cover the topic, including what your rights and your landlord’s right in this area.
Of course, if this issue is something you care deeply about, the best time to address it is prior to entering into your lease. That’s when you have your leverage over the landlord. You can ask for a provision that requires your landlord to get your consent before putting up political signs in the yard.
Once you sign the lease, getting something like that in place is going to be much harder because you both have already agreed to the existing lease. They may want some concession from you in exchange for this additional restriction on the landlord’s activities.
If you have already signed your lease, one option is to bring it up when it is time for renewal. You can be diplomatic about it, but you can say that you would be willing to renew the lease if your landlord promises in the new lease (or lease amendment) not to put up political signs without your consent. They may not agree, but at least you have some negotiating power at that point because you can threaten to leave.
Can My Landlord Force Me To Take Down a Political Sign?
First, there’s a big difference between whether your landlord is the government or a private landlord.
If you rent a government-owned property, the government cannot curtail your first amendment constitutional rights. So, under federal law, you should have the general right to display political signs within reason.
Of course, you have to be mindful of state and local rules too. For example, some states limit the number of signs you can put in your yard. Other states restrict the size of the political banner you display.
Depending on where your property is located, we recommend consulting your lawyer and asking about the state’s regulations regarding political signs to avoid conflict with the government.
Private Landlord Property
If a private landlord owns your rented property the rules are obviously different. Private parties are not subject to the same first amendment requirements.
So it’s all the more important to make sure that you negotiate rights under your lease if this issue is important to you. Of course, we already discussed a few states where tenant rights have been protected, but it always helps to have the lease on your side too.
How To Avoid Conflict With the Landlord
Disagreements with your landlord are never fun.
Therefore, we recommend screening the landlord before renting a property. Find out if this point is something they care about. Many landlords are not politically active and don’t care. They may be happy to put into their lease that they won’t do this if it means getting a great tenant in return.
If you didn’t negotiate this point with your landlord and the lease is unclear on whether your landlord may put political signs in your yard, a polite request to remove it may work. You may appeal to this sense of fairness saying how would they feel if they were in your position. It may not always work, but it’s worth a shot.
And if it becomes unbearable for you, you can always investigate whether you can break your lease early (or, as we discussed earlier, negotiate this point when renewal time comes along).
To Sum Up
So there you have it. An answer to whether your landlord may put political signs in your yard and some tips on what you can do if this happens. Hope this has been helpful and happy renting!