Larry Murphree, who lived in the Tides Condominiums in Sweetwater, Florida, is a true patriot. He served his country in Vietnam and carried his patriotic feelings to his condo in Sweetwater. His mistake? He kept a small American flag on his front porch in a flowerpot. Although says Murphee, this flag was only a small symbol to the county; this simple flag has a meaningful spot in his heart. His purpose was to thank America for what the country has done for him and to show his support.
Unfortunately, his neighbors in the condo did not like his decoration, and they complained to the Homeowner Association (HOA). Larry received a letter from the HOA at Tides Condominium asking him to take the flag out of the flowerpot. The HOA’s reason, the American flag is an unauthorized decoration.
Larry Murphree refused to take down his symbol of America and was fined $100 each day by the HOA that he kept the flag in his flowerpot. Murphree, an Air Force air traffic controller during the Vietnam War, eventually accumulated a total of $1,000 in fines.
Together with his lawyer Gust Sarris, Murphree filed for help with the federal court. The HOA and Murphree came to an agreement that stated Murphree could keep his flag in the flowerpot. However, the HOA went around the agreement and changed the rules. The HOA stated that tenants could fly their flags on a pole, but not in a flowerpot on a porch.
Murphree took his battle back to court, but the problem continued for seven years. Since the HOA was not getting their way, they began to harass Murphree. Murphree received fines for crooked parking in his driveway, he was fined for putting up solar lights at Christmas, and he was fined for keeping a snowflake decoration in his window after Christmas.
The harassment continued, and the 77-year-old Murphree found out that the HOA had been using his HOA fees to pay the fines he had incurred. They did not use the HOA money he paid for HOA required upkeep.
In 2014, the HOA slapped a lien on Murphree’s condo, stating that he refused to pay his obligatory dues. Murphree had to sell his condo to keep the property from being foreclosed, and Murphree was forced from his home.
Murphree told reporters that he sold his condo at a huge loss, found another home and moved away. Murphree explains that although he no longer lives in the Sweetwater Tide condo, the HOA’s rules are wrong and need to be changed. What happened to Larry Murphree was a battle of wits, but he did not win against the HOA. Now Murphree is urging the tenants of the Tides Condominium to fight the rules.