In Mazdabrook Common Homeowners’ Association v. Khan, the Homeowners’ Association adopted rules banning all residential signs, except “For Sale” signs. One of the owners, Wasim Khan, ran for Parsippany Town Council and posted two signs in support of his candidacy – one inside the window of his townhouse, and another inside the door. The Association notified Khan that the signs violated the Association rules and ordered their removal. A lawsuit ensued, and Mr. Khan argued that the Association’s ban on political signs violated his constitution right to free speech.
The Association contended that its restrictions were similar to those restrictions in another case entitled Twin Rivers, which were upheld, and that its restrictions fairly reflected the concerns of architectural and aesthetic uniformity, that the limits imposed were of reasonable time, place, and matter, and afforded Khan alternative avenues of expression. The Association also contended that Khan could have sought permission from the Board to post the signs.
In the Twin Rivers decision, in which the Supreme Court upheld the Association’s policy which limited owners to posting one sign in a window of their home, and a second sign in a flower bed near their residence, the Court determined that the restrictions did not infringe on the owner’s constitutional rights to free speech, in that the restrictions only limited the number and placement of signs, and did not outright ban them. This was the distinguishing factor in the Mazdabrook case. In Mazdabrook, the Court determined that the Association’s outright ban on all signs other than “For Sale” signs went far beyond placing mere restrictions on speech, and therefore was an infringement upon Mr. Khan’s constitutional rights.
It is clear from the Mazdabrook and Twin Rivers decisions that whether an Association’s restrictions on signage is unconstitutional is “fact sensitive.” Courts will generally look to whether the Association’s restriction on signage is reasonable in time, place and manner, and will look unfavorably on restrictions that constitute an outright ban on signage, particularly those of a political nature.
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