Condo association from hell asks vet to remove bumper stickers

A Dallas home owner's association (HOA) told Frank Larison, a disabled veteran with more than 14 years of service, that he had to remove seven Marine Corps decals from his car because they constitute an advertisement and that violates HOA rules.

Fox 4 reports that "Otherwise, the homeowners association for The Woodlands II on The Creek -- where Larison has lived for eight years --- says in a letter it will tow the car at Larison's expense. The board also threatens to fine him $50 for any future incident."

"To me, it's being patriotic, and it shows that I served," Larison told Fox 4.

Of course it's an outrageous story and a lot of us are wondering: What recourse does this proud veteran have? The answer is that he has a few options:
  1. He can remove the decals and go on about his life.
  2. He can leave the decals there and pay whatever fines they impose.
  3. He can appeal to his more rational neighbors and try to get the board to change its mind or have new, more intelligent board members elected who will let him have his decals.
  4. He can move.
A lot of people hear about a story like this and immediately think of free speech and freedom of expression and all those lofty ideals. But by living in a condominium that is part of an association, Larison basically
agreed to swap his personal liberties for whatever rules the HOA decided to pass -- some states have passed laws protecting the display of flags and certain political expression, but the general rule is that if you live in a condo, you live by the condo rules.

Courts have ruled time and again in favor of the sovereignty of condo associations --as the lawyer who helped with the first condominium I purchased told me "Just remember: They're little socialist colonies."

Larison could always try to find a lawyer and sue but in all probability, he'd spend a lot of money and lose. The duly-elected association directors have a right to enforce the rules as they see fit.

It's a sad story and it sounds like the president of the HOA needs to get a life -- and perhaps a therapist. But that doesn't mean that there's much the victim of his insensitivity and pettiness can do about it.

The good news is that Mr. Larison's neighbors will most likely leap to his defense and kick out the condo board -- and let him put his decals back.
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