According to Renner, the homeowner’s association has never specified what American flags are supposed to look like. Renner is a history buff and has various American flags on hand, including the Gadsden flag (“Don’t tread on me” quote with a snake) and a replica of the Betsy Ross style flag (which has 13 stars to represent the original colonies).
Renner originally flew his Gadsden flag in April. After neighbors complained, he received a warning. Next, Renner flew the Colorado Flag — which was “the least offensive flag I could think of,” said Renner. The homeowner’s association disagreed, and Renner received a $100 fine. “What state do they think we live in?” Renner said.
Flag Day came this June 14, and to celebrate, Renner pulled up the Betsy Ross American flag, at which point the homeowner received an incredible $200 fine.
Although the Southbridge Townhomes Association did not respond to media inquiries for a statement, in letters received by Renner, they indicated that any flag other than the U.S. flag was not permitted in their home area.
“Their rules and regulations are in violation of federal law,” argues Renner. He says that the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005 gives him this right, since the definition they use for the flag is “very broad and inclusive.”
The Freedom Act says that, “A … residential real estate management association may not adopt or enforce any policy, or enter into any agreement, that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property.”
The Act does not, indeed, seem to spell out exactly what the American flag looks like, which could leave it up to debate. Typically, homeowners in areas overseen by a homeowner’s association agree, when they purchase a home, to abide by a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions that limits the changes they can make to their home, and agrees to certain maintenance standards, in order to ensure that properties retain their value. It’s unclear whether these flags would fall under that agreement.