When your home is listed for sale, you want it to get as much attention from prospective buyers as possible. Imagine the attention that your home would get if you planted a For Sale sign that was framed in flashing lights and was as big as the house itself.
The thing is, local governments can regulate these signs based on their esthetics, as well as where they are placed. And if you’ve got one of those neighbors who likes to complain about everything, you can bet that your sign will be questioned if it doesn’t fall within these established regulations.
But don’t fret – federal courts have established that the use of signs – including For Sale or Open House signs – is protected by the first amendment to the Constitution. Any local government regulations need to be “content neutral,” which means they can’t flat-out prohibit the use of these signs when you’re trying to market your property’s listing.
They do, however, have the right to regulate signs based on esthetic and safety purposes. So that bright, flashy sign we mentioned earlier would most definitely fall under the “denied” category.
You can find more specifics about the power that local governments have when it comes to For Sale signs on private property in the California Civil Code (sections 712 & 713) itself. The code states that owners or their real estate agents have the right to put a For Sale sign on the owner’s private property, or on the private property of an individual who provides consent.
Once this right is established, the signs themselves need to meet certain criteria. For starters, the sign needs to be located in a logical spot where the public has clear view of it. The sign also needs to be a fair size with a reasonable design, and not compromise traffic and public safety. Basically, the sign shouldn’t abut the curb and spill onto the roadway. In this case, you can bet the sign will be yanked.
The local government can specifically define these criteria, as long as they are reasonable. Once these restrictions are established, a separate private entity can’t just swoop in and make further demand or limitations.
Case in point: HOAs. If the city has already stated that your sign meets the criteria, the HOA can’t make up a more prohibitive rule. So, if the city’s current sign ordinance states that For Sale signs can be any color, an HOA can’t make up a rule that says signs can only be emerald green.
That should help homeowners breathe a sigh of relief if their HOAs are known to be sticklers.
Unfortunately, there is a potential loophole in the matter of private entities like HOAs infringing their absurd rules about For Sale signs. If the city doesn’t have an established rule about a specific trait, then an HOA can actually legally enforce their sign rule, as silly as it may sound. For instance, if the city’s sign law specifically stated that any color is allowed, the HOA’s demands would have no ground to stand on.
Thankfully, the federal court recognizes the legal right that local governments have when it comes to managing For Sale signs and ensuring that the regulation content is neutral. Hopefully, the city you live in has reasonable sign statutes that are spelled out in detail so you can plant your For Sale sign on your front lawn in peace.