With the Fourth of July right around the corner, American flags are unfurling around the country. From decks, front porches, and front yards, saluting our country’s birthday seems like the most un-controversial thing an American can do.

Unless your house is located in a homeowners’ association.flag

Notorious for busybodies, homeowners’ and condominium association boards and members sometimes take enforcement of community bylaws a step too far by trying to ban the American flag.

They are not supposed to prevent homeowners from flying the flag – but that’s a lesson that seems to be re-learned every July. And if potential buyers are researching your community, they may well see news articles about flying-flying disputes. If the dispute is acrimonious, it indicates a hostile stance by the association board, and potentially an unfriendly community culture. Here’s how to handle this potentially sticky situation.

First, know the law and make sure that your association board knows it, too.

That was the critical mistake made by the board of a Murray, Utah homeowners association last year when it categorized the American flag as a banned ‘holiday decoration.’ That evoked this priceless quote from resident Pamela Hennessey, as reported by a local television station: “It’s a symbol of freedom and sacrifice, you don’t categorize it in the same bracket as an inflatable Santa or a pink flamingo.”

Precisely.

That’s why Congress passed the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005. Some states have passed additional laws protecting flag displays. If this issue is festering in your community, consider informing the board of the law so that it doesn’t blunder into an embarrassing mistake.

Be sure you understand the association’s position on flag-flying and decorations. Some associations allow flags to be displayed for certain amounts of time or in certain ways.

Find out if association rules allow red, white and blue, stars-and-stripe decorations that are not flags.

If you are marketing to buyers who likely have a patriotic point of view, such as the military, consider taking photos of your house with the flag flying. Take photos from several points of view –from the street, from the porch—so that you have several to choose from when you list. Including the flag in one listing photo sends a visual message that your community respects everyone’s right to salute the flag.