J.M. from Marion County, Florida writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I am a snowbird who is on our condo association’s board of directors. I am contacting you for assistance with a problem. Other board members have failed to support a veteran (an owner not a renter) who wishes to display a POW-MIA on the exterior of his condo based upon the wording found in Florida State Statute 718.113(4) for COAs. Florida State Statute 720.304(2) allows for display of a POW-MIA flag in HOAs. My interpretation of the COA law is that flag display cannot be regulated by association bylaws. My colleagues believe that the COA law says you cannot display the flag by state statute. Their strict interpretation of the COA law as written also prevents owners from flying Florida state flags. I would greatly appreciate your interpretation of the COA law. Thank You
Mister Condo replies:
J.M., as you may know, I am not an attorney and offer no legal opinions in this column. For a legal opinion, you should seek the advice of a locally qualified attorney. My friendly advice is to tread carefully here. The 2020 Florida State Statute that apply to HOAs (http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0720/Sections/0720.304.html) states clearly that residents within an HOA have the right to display any of the following flags, including the POW-MIA flag:
(2)(a) Any homeowner may display one portable, removable United States flag or official flag of the State of Florida in a respectful manner, and one portable, removable official flag, in a respectful manner, not larger than 41/2 feet by 6 feet, which represents the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, or a POW-MIA flag, regardless of any covenants, restrictions, bylaws, rules, or requirements of the association.
However, the Florida State statute that applies to condominiums (http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0718/Sections/0718.113.html) reads differently:
(4) Any unit owner may display one portable, removable United States flag in a respectful way and, on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day, may display in a respectful way portable, removable official flags, not larger than 41/2 feet by 6 feet, that represent the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, regardless of any declaration rules or requirements dealing with flags or decorations.Notice that the POW-MIA flag is not listed in the approved in the list. Your association is a condominium and is governed by the condo statute. Unfortunately, the POW-MIA flag would appear to have been overlooked by the legislature. That doesn’t mean the condo Board couldn’t still allow it but it doesn’t give the unit owner in question a “right” to fly the flag. Since you asked my opinion, here it is: The Board should pass a motion allowing the flying of the POW-MIA flag to augment the state statute. This is a fight no one wants to have. A POW-MIA flag is widely accepted as a military flag and the fact that it was overlooked in the condo statutes but not the HOA statutes is a pretty good indicator that the intention of the law was to allow owners to display the military flag of their choosing on the approved dates. That being said, I don’t think the unit owner would prevail if it came to a lawsuit because the law is silent on the POW-MIA flag. My guess is if a POW-MIA group protested, the law would be amended, as it should be. All the best!