The events of the past few days remind us how politically divided our country is on so many issues. It seems that in some cases opposing political parties disagree simply to be disagreeable. But in the United States it’s our right to express our views — heck, it’s part of what makes us Americans.

These expressions of our first amendment rights can take many forms from kneeling during the national anthem, to flying a flag or a peaceful demonstration. These protests can raise awareness for a cause and be a driving force for positive change. But on the flip side they can generate hostility, divide us, and damage relationships. This is especially true in our communities and neighborhoods.

The HOA Doesn’t Hate Free Speech

Lets face it, HOA’s have a reputation for squashing homeowners rights. It’s really no surprise, since the restrictions in an HOA or condo limit what we can and can’t do, especially when it negatively affects others in the community.

Sometimes the way someone chooses to make a political statement violates an association rule. In these cases it’s important for community leaders, and members to remember that the association is prohibiting the action and not the statement that is being made.

For example — The HOA may ask you to replace the blue light bulb in your front porch light with a traditional white light. Not because they hate cops but because the rules have established a uniform standard. Emotions run high with these issues so it takes an extra level of tact, consistency, and neutrality when it comes to enforcement.

Politically Correct

Taking the wrong approach to handling these sensitive situations can cause a backlash. Just recently the Philadelphia 76ers had a PR snafu after they wouldn’t let Sevyn Streeter sing the national anthem while wearing a “We Matter” jersey. While the shirt may have been a violation of her contract the handling of the situation gave some the impression that the 76ers were taking a stand on the issue.

Unfortunately political correctness and consistent rule enforcement don’t always go hand-in-hand. But approaching these situations in a calm and professional manner can go a long way to reaching an amicable solution.

Consistency and Fairness

It’s important that managers and boards enforce the rules evenly for all, in addition to clearly explaining why the violation is against the rule. In most cases the rules are in place to protect the building, maintain a uniform look, or protect the peace in the community.

Managers and board members must set aside personal feelings and simply enforce the rules. When we let personal feeling cloud our judgment we will inevitably treat more favorably those with whom we agree, and unfairly those we don’t agree with. That means you need to treat the ‘pony flag’ the same as you treat the ‘butterfly flag’ regardless of your personal feelings on ponies or butterflies.

Burke Nielsen

Burke Nielsen

Founder and Account Manager at GoGladly
Burke is Gladly's top industry expert. After 12 years in portfolio management, Burke founded an HOA management firm, and has drawn from that experience to offer insider-level understanding to Gladly. One of Burke's rare charms is that he actually loves listening to your problems. His more traditional hobbies include camping, 4-wheeling, and spending time with his wife and 5 terrific kids,especially when he gets to nag them about homework (nag the kids, not his wife).
Burke Nielsen

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