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Election Day, yard signs, and flying witches

Posted by Rona Fischman November 4, 2011 01:48 PM

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Election day is next Tuesday.
While walking in a residential area of Cambridge, I came upon a corner where there were three opposing candidate’s yard signs posted. Granted, in Cambridge there are 18 people competing for 9 seats. Cambridge has proportional representation, so a voter can vote for all 18, as long as each one is ranked with a unique number. (If two are ranked #15, neither gets credit for that vote.)
At first glance, I expected “So and So, vote #1,” “Such and So, vote #2…” Instead, they all said “vote #1.” It made me curious about the meaning of the three signs.

A. Was there one person who supports all three? Was he/she hoping that voters would choose all three for positions 1, 2, 3? Was he/she getting the favored candidate’s names out for as many voters as possible?

B. Were there three people living at the property who support different candidates? Were the signs competing?

It is the latter -- three people with different ideas – that brings me to the real estate questions of the day. In a two or three family house or condo, who has authority to decorate the yard? That would include electoral yard signs, but also Halloween, Christmas, and Easter decorations.

The problems could be many. Who has the authority to approve or ban yard signs and holiday decorations? Do landlords or tenants have the right to display the candidate of their choice and their holiday displays if other people are not of the same political persuasion or religion?

Is the authority to decorate the realm of the owner? Can an absentee landlord ban yard signs, or holiday decorations? Suppose an owner-occupied two-family owner wants to put up a big elaborate Christmas display and the tenants are Jewish? Can the tenant object? What if the owner is not living there and one tenant wants a ten-foot Santa and the other doesn’t?

We just passed Halloween. Halloween decorations tend toward the intentionally tacky. Halloween is not a sacred holiday as it is celebrated in New England. But, serious Wiccans certainly can do without the silly decorations that have witches on broomsticks flattened into trees and walls. (The first time I saw one of those decorations, I thought, “cute!” Then I thought of my Wiccan friends and thought, “ouch!”) I asked one of those friends; she said she didn't mind them, but wouldn't want one on her house.

Can we resolve this before the next wave of decorations – the inflated turkeys? Halloween is over, so Christmas is right around the corner…so are the mechanical reindeer.

What is your take on rights in this matter? Has your property been decorated without your consent?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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