Veteran fights condo homeowners association

First they battled over displaying flag; now over dues

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Larry Murphree has been battling his Southside Homeowners Association for more than two years.

It started as a disagreement about where he could display a small American flag. Now, the Tides Condominium at Sweetwater HOA has filed a lien against Murphree's property, claiming he hasn't paid his dues.

But he said that's not true.

Murphree, a veteran, filed a suit last year after the HOA said he couldn't put a small American flag inside a potted plant on his front stoop.

He said the case was settled, and he agreed to display the flag in compliance with the "association documents."

The flag remained in the flower pot until a few months ago, when Murphree said the HOA came knocking again, telling him the rules had changed.

According to the HOA, homeowners can fly a flag inside a flag pole on the side of the building, but they can't place the flag elsewhere, like inside a potted plant.

Murphree said the association told him to pay $100 a day or take it out.

"They left us no choice," Murphree said. "We had a federal judge look at it, and he ruled that it should be in state court instead of federal court. We waited to see what they were going to do. (The HOA) put a foreclosure on my house for not paying the dues."

But Murphree showed Channel 4's Heather Leigh a copy of his bank statement, showing automatic payments for dues being withdrawn by the HOA on dates the HOA claims he did not pay. But no one would say what was happening with that money.

News4Jax tried to ask the HOA where the money was going, but officials wouldn't answer any questions. The HOA released this statement: "The Tides Condominium at Sweetwater by Del Webb Inc. is not foreclosing on Mr. Murphree's property for improperly displaying the American flag. … A lien has been filed against the property but … the lien specifically relates to his failure to pay regular monthly assessments."

Murphree said the HOA claims he owes $8,000. The lien says $960, but it says it will secure unpaid assessments that are due or that may accrue after the lien is filed.

With the threat of losing his home, Murphree decided to send a message by displaying his flag upside down.

"I did a little research, and it says flags should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property," Murphree said. "They want to take my house, my home. Yeah, that's extreme. That's why it's upside down."

And he said the flag isn't going anywhere.

"There's people that strap on a gun every day of their lives to protect me and the people I love," Murphree said. "It's a small flag, but it stands for a big thank you, and it also stands for the love and respect I have for my country. That's just the way I feel."

About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.