Renters Deserve Free Speech Rights, Too

February 16, 2011 12:00 am

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Tenants will have the right to display political signs on any part of the premises of their rented homes or apartments if a bill, SB 337, introduced yesterday by Senator Christine Kehoe and backed by the ACLU passes in the California legislature and is signed by Governor Jerry Brown.

“The right to express yourself should not depend on whether you own or rent your home,” said Linda Lye, staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. “We encourage the legislature and Governor Brown to guarantee free speech rights for California tenants.”

While the notion may seem uncontroversial, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation in 2006.

Current law allows residents in mobile home parks and condominium associations to display political signs, but these protections do not apply to renters in general. More than 40% of Californian households are renter-occupied, according to the American Community Survey. SB 337 would allow tenants to post signs, posters, flags or banners in the windows of their homes.

The cities of Davis and Woodland municipal codes in place that prohibit landlords from restricting the display of political signs by tenants.

A number of incidents have recently come to the attention of the ACLU in which renters, including a San Francisco optometrist, a San Diego student, and a disabled veteran in San Rafael, were threatened with fines or eviction for posting political signs or in one case, for displaying a flag. This legislation would ensure that tenants’ free speech rights are uniformly protected throughout the State.

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