An Air Force veteran claims he had no choice but to sell his home after his condo association at his former residence fined him for displaying a U.S. flag in a flower pot placed outside his unit.
Larry Murphree, a former Air Force traffic controller, is suing his former condo association for $1 million to recoup the amount of money he has spent fighting for his right to display the American flag, the Washington Post reported Monday.
“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, Gust Sarris, told the Post.
Murphree lived in a 55 and older community called Tides Condominium Association in Sweetwater, Florida, since it opened nearly ten years ago.
Things went smoothly for Murphree until the building’s homeowners’ association (HOA) sent him a letter asking him to remove the flag from the flower pot placed on his front porch.
“I got a violation letter that stated the American flag was an unauthorized object and for me to take it down,” Murphree told First Coast News.
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The Air Force veteran said that when he received the letter, he refused to give into the condo association’s demands and kept paying the $100 fine the condo board imposed on him for keeping the flag up.
“I lost it,” Murphree said upon receiving the letter. “It just dawned on me there’s people that strap on a gun every day to protect me and the people I love. It’s a small flag, but it stands for a big ‘thank you.’”
The fines accumulated each day Murphree kept his flag up, and the fines soon totaled up to $1,000.
The HOA reached an agreement with Murphree in 2012 that he could display his flag in the flower pot, but the veteran said the HOA changed its rules from prohibiting flags to prohibiting flower pots.
“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,” Sarris said.
The HOA fined Murphree $100 a day for displaying the flag in the flower pot and collected the fines from his condo fees, which Murphree said was done without his consent.
“So, the monthly homeowner’s fees weren’t being paid,” Sarris said, “That’s how they were able to get a lien on the property.”
After the HOA began citing him for other violations, such as displaying items in the window during Christmas, the condo association placed a lien on Murphree’s property in 2015. Murphree said he had no choice but to sell his property or face foreclosure.
Murphree currently lives in St. Augustine, where he has eight flags displayed on his property. Although he has had no problems with his current community, he is going to trial to recoup the time and money spent fighting for his right to show his patriotism.
“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,” the veteran’s attorney said.