A veteran who took pride in displaying the American flag on his home is now being forced to sell his condo. Larry Murphree had the flag waving proudly on his front porch, but the community wasn’t pleased, as it was considered a violation of the homeowner’s association rules. Murphree explained, saying: “One day I was thinking about the country, and I put a small American flag on my front porch in a flower pot.”
He added: “It’s a small flag, but it stands for a big thank you.”
Murphree later received a letter from the Home Owner Association (HOA) at the Tides Condominium, asking him to remove the flag from his flower pot. He noted: “I got a violation letter that stated the American flag was an unauthorized object and for me to take it down.”
To Murphree, asking to remove the flag was offensive — a military veteran, who served six years as an Air Force air traffic controller during the Vietnam War, he decided he wouldn’t remove the patriotic symbol.
That’s when he was fined… $100 every day that he didn’t remove the flag. When the amount totaled $1,000, Murphree got lawyer Gust Sarris involved.
Sarris said of the man’s rights: “We believe we have the right to display the American flag, we filed suit in federal court.”
The attorney further noted that an agreement was reached by the two parties, allowing Murphree to keep the flag in his flowerpot. The fight wasn’t over, however, as the the HOA reversed their flag ordinance to a flower pot ordinance a few months later, which would only allow Murphree to fly his flag on a pole, but not in a flower pot.
Sarris explained: “Somehow they re-categorized it and started doing the same thing again, which was the same flag, the same flower pot, the same dirt and the same plant.”
This legal battle has waged on for seven long years and Murphree said the HOA started harassing him, even fining him for ridiculous infractions, such as not parking in his driveway straight enough or having a window decoration up after Christmas.
The HOA, he discovered, had been using the veteran’s HOA fee money to pay off the fines, allowing them to put a lien on Murphree’s property in 2014, as they insisted he hadn’t paid his required dues.
This forced him to sell the condo so it it wouldn’t be foreclosed on, as Murphree said, “Sold my place at a tremendous loss and got out of here.”
He added: “Somebody had to stand up and say, ‘this is not right.’”
First Coast News reported that Murphree’s most recent lawsuit will be headed to trial next year, explaining that, “based on previous court records, the only thing the HOA permits in a planter is foliage/plants/flowers.”
Among the comments on the story on social media were those who wondered about HOA requirements, with one person explaining: “Membership in the HOA is mandatory. When you buy a property governed by a homeowners’ association, you automatically become a member of the association. You don’t have the choice of not joining. The purchase of your home becomes a contract with the HOA.”