Phil Querin Q&A: Religious and Political Material Left in Community

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April 24, 2012

Question: We have a resident who has expressed displeasure over finding tracts, Bibles, etc., left in the clubhouse. Not wanting to cater to the complaining resident, but also not wanting to offend others or place the park in a bad position, what is the safest legal way to deal with this issue?

Answer: This is a new one. The Oregon landlord tenant law does not expressly address this specific issue. The closest it comes are the following laws:

1. ORS 90.755 Right to speak on political issues; limitations; placement of political signs:

(1) No provision in any bylaw, rental agreement, regulation or rule may infringe upon the right of a person who rents a space for a manufactured dwelling or floating home to invite public officers, candidates for public office or officers or representatives of a tenant organization to appear and speak upon matters of public interest in the common areas or recreational areas of the facility at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner in an open public meeting. The landlord of a facility, however, may enforce reasonable rules and regulations relating to the time, place and scheduling of the speakers that will protect the interests of the majority of the homeowners.

(2) The landlord shall allow the tenant to place political signs on or in a manufactured dwelling or floating home owned by the tenant or the space rented by the tenant. The size of the signs and the length of time for which the signs may be displayed are subject to the reasonable rules of the landlord. (Emphasis added.)

2. 90.750 Right to assemble or canvass in facility; limitations. No provision contained in any bylaw, rental agreement, regulation or rule pertaining to a facility shall:

(1) Infringe upon the right of persons who rent spaces in a facility to peaceably assemble in an open public meeting for any lawful purpose, at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner, in the common areas or recreational areas of the facility. Reasonable times shall include daily the hours between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.

(2) Infringe upon the right of persons who rent spaces in a facility to communicate or assemble among themselves, at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner, for the purpose of discussing any matter, including but not limited to any matter relating to the facility or manufactured dwelling or floating home living. The discussions may be held in the common areas or recreational areas of the facility, including halls or centers, or any resident’s dwelling unit or floating home. The landlord of a facility, however, may enforce reasonable rules and regulations including but not limited to place, scheduling, occupancy densities and utilities.

(3) Prohibit any person who rents a space for a manufactured dwelling or floating home from canvassing other persons in the same facility for purposes described in this section. As used in this subsection, “canvassing” includes door-to-door contact, an oral or written request, the distribution, the circulation, the posting or the publication of a notice or newsletter or a general announcement or any other matter relevant to the membership of a tenants’ association.

(4) This section is not intended to require a landlord to permit any person to solicit money, except that a tenants’ association member, whether or not a tenant of the facility, may personally collect delinquent dues owed by an existing member of a tenants’ association.

(5) This section is not intended to require a landlord to permit any person to disregard a tenant’s request not to be canvassed. (Emphasis added.)

3. 90.740 Tenant obligations. A tenant shall:

(3) Behave, and require persons on the premises with the consent of the tenant to behave, in compliance with the rental agreement and with any laws or ordinances that relate to the tenant’s behavior as a tenant.

(4) Except as provided by the rental agreement:

(a) Use the rented space and the facility common areas in a reasonable manner considering the purposes for which they were designed and intended;

(i) Behave, and require persons on the premises with the consent of the tenant to behave, in a manner that does not disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the premises by neighbors. (Emphasis added.)

So, you see, this simply isn’t addressed in the landlord-tenant law. Nor should it be. Clearly, the resident leaving the religious material in the clubhouse could, if he or she wanted, go door to door proselytizing, unless and until others complained. If the materials are left anonymously, without more than a single resident being offended, I’m not sure what the landlord could or should do. Remove and destroy the materials?

If the landlord knows who is doing this, perhaps a personal discussion with them might be in order. But telling them to “stop” because a single person is offended seems unnecessary. If there is a place in the clubhouse for storage of reading materials, perhaps removing the literature to that location would work. Certainly, no rule change prohibiting placement of materials in the clubhouse (just because they are religious) is unnecessary. Management cannot be responsible for controlling the placement of written materials in the clubhouse unless it is offensive, inappropriate for minors and guests. This is what free speech is all about. My view would be the same regardless of the denomination of the literature. If I’m incorrect, I’m sure I will hear about it.

 

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