California Civil Code section 1940.4 was added this year to prohibit landlords from forbidding a tenant from posting or displaying political signs. Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) introduced the legislation to enhance the ability of tenants to participate in the political process. In advocating on behalf of the legislation, Senator Kehoe stated, “[r]enters deserve the right to participate in our democracy and express their views just as much as homeowners.”
Under the new section, political signs may relate to an election or legislative vote, initiative, referendum or recall process, or issues before a public body for a vote. Political signs may be posted or displayed in the window or on the door of the premises leased by the tenant in a multifamily dwelling, or in the yard, window, door, balcony or outside wall of the premises by a tenant of a single-family dwelling.
A landlord may prohibit a tenant from posting or displaying political signs if (1) the sign is more than six square feet in size; (2) the displaying would violate a local, state or federal law; or (3) the displaying would violate a lawful provision in a common interest development document.
Tenants who choose to post political signs must comply with the time limits set by the ordinance and will be responsible for any violation. If there is no local ordinance or if it does not include a time limit for posting and removing political signs on private property, the landlord may establish a reasonable time period. The legislature has declared a reasonable time period for this purpose to be at least ninety days prior to the date of the election or vote until at least fifteen days following the date of the election or vote.
Many cities have their own ordinances governing political signs on private property and, in that case, a tenant would need to consult them. Those for the City of San Luis Obispo are found in Chapter 2.40 of the San Luis Obispo Municipal Code. Local ordinances may differ from state provisions. For example, San Luis Obispo limits political signs to three square feet in residential zones and ten square feet in nonresidential zones. In addition, the San Luis Obispo ordinance requires political signs to be removed no later than ten days following the election for which they relate.
This new legislation will make it easier for renters to show their support for candidates or political issues and encourage participation in the political process.
Landlords must be sure the rental agreements they require their tenants to enter into do not contain any provisions that would prohibit the posting of political signs.
Heather K. Whitham