Veteran Loses Home To HOA For Displaying Small Flag In Flower Pot

Larry Murphree fought with his condo association for seven years over his right to display a small flag in a flower pot.

Sweetwater, FL – A former Air Force air traffic controller said he was forced from his retirement home by the Home Owners Association (HOA) after he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and seven years battling to keep an American flag in his front yard.

Larry Murphree was fined $100 by the Tides Condominium Association for every day he had an “unauthorized object,” in the form of a 17-inch American flag, on his front porch, The Washington Post reported.

“I lost it,” Murphree said of his reaction when he received the letter notifying him of the fine. “It just dawned on me there’s people that strap on a gun every day to protect me and the people I love.”

Murphree was one of the first people to buy a home at the Tides Condominiums at Sweetwater, a community for people over 55 years of age. He cut the ribbon at one of the opening ceremonies and had been nicknamed “The Mayor” by other residents, according to The Washington Post.

The retired veteran said that the only issue he had with the neighborhood was that many of the homes looked alike, and neighbors frequently pulled into the wrong driveway. Plus there were monitors who kept an eye on all the houses to tattle if somebody did something that violated the community’s very strict bylaws.

His battle with the HOA began in 2011 after he began displaying a 17-inch flag in a flower pot on his front porch.

"It's a small flag," Murphree told WTLV, "but it stands for a big thank you."

The HOA began fining him, so he got an attorney to fight them.

"We believe we have the right to display the American flag, we filed suit in federal court," attorney Gust Sarris told WTLV.

Sarris filed suit and argued that Florida laws and federal statutes allowed people to display the U.S. flag. In fact, The Freedom to Display the American Flag Act prohibits homeowners associations and condo associations from stopping residents from displaying the flag.

However, associations are allowed reasonable restrictions, and Murphree’s community’s bylaws only permitted residents to fly flags from flagpoles, according to the Washington Post.

Murphree thought the battle was over in 2012 when the condo association settled with him, paid his court fees, and agreed to allow him to keep his American flag in the flower pot on his front porch.

But a short time later, the HOA changed up the neighborhood rules and added new guidelines that governed how residents could display flower pots. Suddenly, Murphree’s flag was in violation of the HOA’s bylaws yet again.

The HOA began fining him $100 a day again, and started withdrawing the money they said was owed for fines from his monthly association dues, which left him in overdue for his condo fees.

Murphree said he had no idea it was happening because he’d just had neck surgery and was “in a fog” when they began deducting the money, according to the Washington Post.

He said they also began to cite him for not parking his car appropriately in his own driveway, and for powering his Christmas lights with a solar panel instead of a battery.

"They just started nitpicking everything that I did," Murphree told WTLV.

By the time he realized the HOA was deducting his fines from the money he was paying for condo fees three years ago, he was enough in the hole that the condo association was able to file for a lien on his property.

Murphree said he had to sell his home at a significant loss due to mounting fees and imminent foreclosure, The Washington Post reported. He also said he no longer wanted to live in the community after what they’d put him through.

“Should any man who served in the military lose his home, a retirement home, because they want to be patriotic? Anybody can see that the HOA has gone overboard,” Sarris told the Washington Post.

Now, Murphree has a court date and is suing the condominium association for $1 million.

“He’s probably lost… hundreds of thousands of dollars of his retirement money, not to mention the time he’ll never get back from having to fight this battle,” his attorney said.

The HOA has not responded to calls from the media seeking comment.

Comments (62)
No. 1-50
Hi_estComnDenomn
Hi_estComnDenomn

All he had to do was put the flag on a pole.

And as a former service member he should be well aware that his polo is abominable, as it breaks flag code.

Mrs10
Mrs10

It absolutely sucks for him but if there was a regulation that allowed him to display the flag he should've gone with that from the beginning. Although it sounds like he was living in a 1984 hell where they regulated his every move. Too bad he didn't get out early on.

Memaw187
Memaw187

That HOA IS nothing but a bunch of malicious, petty tyrants. I hope he gets every penny he asks for and then some. They hate freedom and the flag represents everything they despise.

StandforTheBlue
StandforTheBlue

It's a sad day when you cannot, especially as a veteran, display a very small American Flag in your flower bed. He went through a lot. I know how it is to have neck surgery, I've had that myself. Sounds like they just wanted him out for some reason. But I would think he could win in a court of law. This sounds unusually harsh.

ReserveDepty3431
ReserveDepty3431

I’m all for patriotism but, as adults, we all have rules to live by. When you break the rules you pay the price. He’s a prime example of that fact.

LEO0301
LEO0301

It sounds like the association went out of their way looking to make this man's life miserable. I hope he is successful in his law suit.

Grog
Grog

People get a copy of the HOA regulations before they buy. He know and he went against the regs. After being told to remove it, he should have obeyed the regulations, instead of thinking, "I'm a Veteran. This regulation doesn't apply to me. Just everyone else." Maybe that's how they do it in the Air Force; obey only what you agree with. But, as a Retired Marine, I know no one is exempt and we obey regulations. If you disagree with something, you advocate to change it, but you will never, ever, win, if you disobey a law, rule, regulation, whatever!

Suggie
Suggie

This is why I would never never live in Condo jail. He should have moved after the first rodeo bucking horse.

Clint9608
Clint9608

The hoa sounds like the overseas Indian they can't stand the American flag this should be against the law to be told no to fly out fly the hospital should be fined and then the hospital should be forced to apologize and refund this man's money

LordSeamus
LordSeamus

Way to pay a vet back for their service.....hope he wins!

OakwoodLT5
OakwoodLT5

Snuggie - liberals do it all the time. They pick and choose which ones they want to follow and get away with it.

Szrudy3
Szrudy3

HOA are bullies

Propolice
Propolice

What a terrible story, I’m just not sure I believe this could happen in our country But with all the lunatic liberals around maybe.... the other residents should have put little flags out in support of the man and our Country. Shame, shame

MrDMan
MrDMan

I agree with the Marine.As a retired Navy man rules are rules, but some should be questioned.We are living in a time when the flag is daily disrespected in terrible ways and I have seen police officers standing near by doing nothing.This is going to get worse after the former FLOTUS remarked about "all this fuss over a flag." Once the flag is considered just another ancient pat of patriotism, the Marine can take down any pictures of the flag raising on Iwo Jima because someone may say it offends them.We are living in a time also when groups like ANTIFA can destroy property, attack veterans,and do whatever they want, and nothing is done.I would love to see what would happen if the Marine walked through a bunch of them carrying a small flag.Semper Fi?

MrDMan
MrDMan

I would add one more small comment.They had regs that the tenants were given at the beginning, but they were changed on the homeowner.Is that how regs are to be obeyed as they are changed to attack the homeowner.

JBo
JBo

It sounds like the HOA set a trap for him and he walked right into it. Bylaws on how to display flower pots?

Helen Hendrickson
Helen Hendrickson

Sounds like the HOA is run by liberal Anti-American trash! I sure hope he wins! But the way they run everything in our country I am afraid that it will go against him GOD BLESS AMERICA!

1582red
1582red

This is terrible, and one of the reasons I would never live in a community with their ridiculous rules again. We lived in a gated community in Stuart Florida. We had two resin chipmunks no higher than 14", one saying "Hi" and one saying Bye" We received a letter from HOA saying we must remove out Statues. We looked at one another and said where do we have Statues?? We couldn't believe it. I hope this man wins his case, and moves where he can honor his fellow veterans. It is unfair that they changed the rules after this had been settled.

BlueProtects
BlueProtects

This just goes to show that the Liberals follow the Hitler strategy hand book on how to become a Nation under a Dictatorship. Already they insist on taking away Republicans 1st and 2nd Amendment Rights. They insist on making America a 3rd World Country by opening all borders and not requiring a Vetting process for all Countries to come and due as they please and Americans will pay for all of there needs and not to bother to contribute anything back in return plus they won't be required to work or Speak English. The American Citizens would be required to live under a Dictatorship and work to cover all of the invaders there freedom to strip America clean.

Caprice56
Caprice56

I would sue board members for bias! They have gone out of their way to harass this man, and the cowards did it covertly. Not telling him about fees being deducted. They stole his home. I hope he has an army of lawyer-sharks who will destroy the HOA board members. Some of these people let a little power go to their heads. That small flag hurst no on but represents a lot to him.

Jay v
Jay v

Any Veteran who buys a condo at that development is nuts.I wish organizations like The American Legion,The VFW AND AMVETS WOULD SUE THAT Condo board with a classic action.This story should be posted nation wide to all Veteran groups .I hope that would stop condo purchases and that developmeant, and prices will drop to under $100,000

fenolj
fenolj

HOA's are Socialist communities. They are harmful, shameful places to live. You couldn't pay me to live in one. The dictators that run this Nazi-ist dump think they are gods and have placed themselves on a pedestal. Nobody should ever be able to take away a Veteran's Patriotism in America. I hope and pray KARMA is violent to these people.

Jay v
Jay v

Fenolj,I agree 100%

Hi_estComnDenomnn
Hi_estComnDenomnn

It also breaks flag code when NFL players take a knee or hide out in the locker rooms like the clowns they are.

Jay v
Jay v

Reserve Depty.I agree to a point BUT, that board went directly after him by changing the bylaws to say no more flower pots.Remember, Condo Boards are elected by condo owners,the board is usually about 5 people,they can vote together and force there view on other people for the duration of there term,and you as a Condo owner, is stuck with any decision they make.No mater how you put it,its a 12 month dictatorship or more if they reelected NO BOARD SHOULD HAVE ALL THE VOTEING POWER WITHOUT THE Condos owners consent.

Cstuartsr
Cstuartsr

It’s BS! End of statement

Righton17
Righton17

Our congress should pass a law stating emphatically that the flying of the American flag, if flown correctly according to federal guidelines, shall not be considered illegal in ANY DAMN CIRCUMSTANCE, PERIOD!!!

Hi_estComnDenomnn
Hi_estComnDenomnn

It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.

askmeinn
askmeinn

I can so relate. My 4.5yr battle w/ my Assoc just forced me into Chapter 13 Bankruptcy to save my home because I refused to pay outrages fines levied against me that were in violation of my ADA rights. I ask for a reasonable accommodation not to close my service animals pet fence when not in use. The fence is in use 24-7 for the safety and security of my 5 lb service animal. The Association said the ADA did not apply to private property and levied a $1,000 fine. The knew I only received 770.00 per mo SS and SSDI and could not pay this. And God forbid if they do not like you they can, and will, ruin your life. Salt Springs Resort Association is like many other Fl communities who's property mangers job is to generate revenue for the Corporation. They target people who stand up to them, they don't like or undesirables they wish to get rid of for the revenue. I have watched 38 lives ruined and my Assoc take their property for 1.00. In Mar a board member purchased one of these properties that was valued at 15,000 for $2,500 and then got her board to wave 9,000 back dues owed on the property. The DBPR does not do their job so they continue to ruin lives. We had a homeowner take his life because of the Associations abuse toward him. When I get out of this NIGHTMARE I will never buy into any community, HOA or COA.

youareceo
youareceo

I have been on a HOA Board and this disgusts me. If my compatriots had tried to violate the OBVIOUS utmost good faith clause of the settlement, I would motion they be removed. I also believe the comparison on size and location, based on the eminence rules of HOAs that the smaller the disturbance the better, fails the legal test under the Act mentioned: You can't let someone have a giant flag on or hang by flagpole, and tell someone who wants a SMALLER visual disturbance of same message they can't, assuming the display is tasteful. Persona non grata for a defense.

For those that don't know, most settlements have two important clauses: Finality, meaning this is the end of it and ALL things related to it. Utmost good faith, meaning we with all fervor mean to abide by the spirit of the agreement. They used the finality clause to violate the utmost good faith by going after the homeowner for related issues. Because you can't counter sue because we are done with this, we are changing rules so you can't win. It's also the blatant bullying, politics and personal vendetta in HOAs! HOAs had terrifying power in Colorado. It needs to end, they just do what they want. Spoken by an insider. (mic drop)

Aaron57
Aaron57

Given what you've said previously, I suspect you are being critical of the HOA, but your statement as written could go either way...

Yell2017
Yell2017

That is just wrong. HOA’s have too much power

61mouse
61mouse

Why on Earth would anyone ever want to live where there is a HOA telling you what you can and can't do

Mom2Boys
Mom2Boys

A good lawyer and an honest judge should be able to put an end to this. Local veterans should protest outside the gates and call attention to this socialist HOA regime.

Copper355
Copper355

Sad, but rules are rules. Interesting that on a LEO website so many are on the side of the offender. Anyway, either abide by the HOA rules that you agreed to when you moved there, or sell and go buy property that really belongs to you and fly it high and proud.

wolfeagle
wolfeagle

We read this all the time.. A man has been arrested on suspicion of shooting his homeowners association members at a condominium complex. HOA's are EVIL.

Bstn199
Bstn199

@Copper355...Yes rules are rules, thus him winning the right to fly the flag, but the HOA turned around and "added" new bylaws over flower pots, then started nitpicking his parking in his driveway, using solar instead of a battery on his Christmas lights, that to me sounds like revenge for his winning the American flag battle, and that is what people on this police site are annoyed about. HOAs are vundictive like that my parents live in FL in a retirement community and Ive heard from them on assinine things the HOA has done against resudents there to be vindictive. HOAs were created to keep the neighborhoods from becoming trashy looking but now a days they are overstepping on creating too many rules, come on a frighin flower pot on a front patio?

Hi_estComnDenomnn
Hi_estComnDenomnn

Fuck HOAs. I'd burn my house down before giving it up to them.

shars
shars

This is why I moved to Collier County and got 2-1/2 acres. I can put 100 flags out front if I want to.

uarew
uarew

Absolutely we're on the side of the Veteran. Most of the time I follow the rules, but when rules are set up to deliberately to "get back" at a person, then I say sue the Bards. Unless he gets a liberal judge that doesn't believe in the Constitution, he'll win his money and I hope he is able to "take down" the Ales.

TarnishedCopper
TarnishedCopper

HOA's = Socialized Housing (AKA Socialist)

Jones24
Jones24

Shame on them. This makes me sick! Sorry you had to go through this!

Bullseye
Bullseye

Please post the names and addresses with phone numbers of the HOA and their corporate personnel please.

JMK2244
JMK2244

This is absolutely absurd. OBVIOUS the HOA was making up the rules as they went just to retaliate. They need to get a life! And I SO hope they end up having to pay him $1 million.

Eddie K
Eddie K

Why would anyone want to live in a deed restricted community? There are to many people with small minds that let a little authority go to their heads in the H.O.A.'s.

DRTice
DRTice

Time for people to pay a extended visit to this homeowners ass-o-ciation. And no I didn't misspell it.

Katarina
Katarina

@Copper355 The flower pot rule was made after he was living there. It isn't right that they should be able to make up rules as they go along. There is either more to the story, or they seem out to get him.