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When House Rules Override the First Amendment

Tribeca

Freedom of Speech
Oct. 4, 2016

It happens every four years: signs and posters supporting presidential candidates sprout in New York City windows, on lawns, and outside apartment buildings. It’s a basic freedom of speech, right, to express your preference for a particular presidential hopeful?

Maybe not, reports the New York Times. Rebecca and Shirley Solomon, two sisters who have shared a rent-stabilized apartment in a Tribeca loft for nearly 40 years, recently hung a sign in their window supporting Hillary Clinton – and were ordered by their landlord to remove it. The problem is that the building was converted to a condominium, and the condo board has a new rule prohibiting residents from putting signs of any kind in their windows – including political endorsements.

People living in co-ops, condos and privately owned rental buildings answer to the owner of the building. Co-op shareholders and condo unit-owners – as well as renters in co-op or condo buildings – must follow the rules of the board, which, like the landlord in a rental building, has the power to pass and enforce rules.

“There would not be a constitutional right to post your sign if the landlord is saying no,” says Christopher Dunn, associate legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union.

It’s bad news for the Solomon sisters, but good news for Donald Trump.

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