Seeing Injustice Is Easy – Solving Problems Is HARD

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Many of you may have seen the June 7, 2021, Milwaukee Sentinel story about a Milwaukee area home that was flying two flags: one the US flag and the second a Pride flag. According to the story, the owners were told to take down the Pride flag because the association only allowed the US flag. The residents, one of whom was a board member, “decided to adhere to the rules and take the flag down” but then installed “a bright display of rainbow-colored Pride lights to highlight the house.” The story tells us that the residents had no intent to become adversarial, that they “don’t feel targeted or attacked in [their] community” but rather to illustrate with humor ways to get around rules.

The Problem for the Board
  1. The story does not say if the association was a condominium or an HOA, but either way the Board may well be tasked with monitoring the exterior appearance of the homes. That is certainly true for condominium associations (See 703.13 Wis. Stat.), and is often included in HOA covenants;
  2. The association documents may well have prohibited all flags at one time, but if the association were a condominium, then as of 2003, they must allow the displaying of the United States flag. (See, 703.105(1) Wis. Stat.). This law may well explain the sole exception to the no flag rule being the US flag.
  3. Although apparently not the situation in this case, many rules come into existence after some person abuses a situation. For example, if there were not a rule and someone put up 1,000 flags should that be OK with everyone? If you were the neighbor and wanted to sell your house, don’t you think that MIGHT affect the value of your house? Don’t you think you would be asking the association board to do something, so that your neighbor’s actions don’t affect the value of your property
Solutions
  1. Have the people unhappy with the rule run for the board and amend the rule. Of course this comes with it the duty to do, without compensation 99% of the time, all of the work of being a board member.
  2. Petition the Board and your neighbors to change the rule.
  3. Sell your house and move to a different association or a home that is not part of an association.
  4. Follow the rules in terms of both the letter of the rule and its spirit. Or,
  5. Use your energy to help improve the association, which may well include changing the rule to whatever it is that you are willing to help enforce.
LESSONS:
  1. Finding injustices or perceived injustices is easy.
  2. Finding solutions, that a majority can agree upon, is hard.
  3. Finding common ground that everyone can support is even harder, but to get there you have to be part of the solution and seeking input and true understanding of all of the various sides.

I hope we all can work harder to be part of the solutions to the problems we see.

To learn more on political displays in Wisconsin condominiums, read our blog, The Balance in Display of Patriotism and Political Support Under Wisconsin Condominium Law.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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