Question: When we bought our townhouse in 1960, we thought we were moving into a spacious and serene enclave. But in 1989, the board hired a management company. On its direction, each new board has created and posted more signs in our living environment, polluting our landscape. It is a wonder there is any place left in our complex to post a sign.
Here are just a few of the signs we have: "Warning! Speed Bumps." "Penalty and Fine Charts." "No Trespassing." "No Parking." "No Speeding." "Private Property." "Reminders." "For Lease." "For Sale." "This Way to the Pool." "Close Gate." "No Running." "No Joggers Allowed." "No Bicycles Allowed." "No Skateboarders Allowed." "No Dogs Allowed in This Area." "No Noise." "Pick Up Your Trash." "No Lifeguard on Duty." "No Garage Sales Allowed." "Watch Your Kids." "No Smoking." "Pool Party Next Saturday." "Watch Your Step." "Fire Extinguisher." "Hose Storage." "Sprinkler Valves." "No Alcohol on Premises." "No Loud Talking on Walkways After 9 p.m." "Walk, Don't Run." "Watch for Pedestrians." "No Cell Phones," and many more.
We created a group of sign vigilantes to remove the monstrosities, but the board just replaced them. Because of the sign removals, the vigilantes have been threatened with a lawsuit for destroying association property. Now the management company has recommended that the board purchase signs in bulk.
It is no longer pleasurable walking the grounds or driving into one's driveway only to be met with signs peppering the garages that threaten "Unauthorized Cars Will Be Towed" and "Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted" and demand "Slow Down Now." Very few units enjoy an unobstructed view anymore.
New buyers have commented on the presence of so many signs. One went so far as to say that with all these signs he couldn't imagine what it would be like living here. He decided to look elsewhere.
Do you have any suggestions on how we should handle this?
Answer: Open space in high-density developments is an attractive feature to buyers, yet there are no guarantees that space will remain open after the buyers purchase. Filling those spaces with signs defeats their very purpose.
Some signs may be required by law, such as, "No Lifeguard on Duty," and those advising of speed bumps may provide certain protections to the association. However, there may be a point at which the quantity of signs affects property values or sales in general. Owners' units closest to the signs may suffer devaluation, and owners farther away may derive a benefit.
Indiscriminately plastering the landscape with numerous signs creates a visual blight and may result in information that is misleading and confusing to those trying to obey. The board may be responsible for allowing the development to become an eyesore or hazard, thus subjecting the association to liability if the confusion leads to injury. Many "reminders" are often part of an association's rules and regulations, of which owners have already been made aware.
The board has a fiduciary duty to the titleholders to perform due diligence by inquiring, investigating and determining which signs are absolutely necessary. The management company has no such duty as its direction emanates solely from the board. Without board direction, the management company has no authority to act. It might be interesting to learn whether the management company receives any extra financial incentive for supplying the signs.
Owners should demand the legal justification for each sign and demand that the board post only those signs required by law. If a majority of the titleholders want the nonregulatory signs removed or placed elsewhere, but the board refuses to recognize those needs, the solution may be to remove the present board and replace it with titleholders who understand members' needs.
Send questions to P.O. Box 11843, Marina del Rey, CA 90295 or e-mail email@example.com.