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Helsinki man ordered to remove rainbow flag from balcony

The housing company said the flag could not cover any part of the building's facade.

Rainbow flags and decorations can be seen across the city during Pride Week. Image: AOP

A man who wanted to observe Pride Week by hanging a rainbow flag over his balcony was ordered by the building's housing company to remove it.

Pride Week, which celebrates sexual minorities, began on Monday and Helsinki resident Konsta Kettunen put up a rainbow-designed flag over - and on the sides of - his balcony on Wednesday.

However shortly after that, Kettunen said he received a call from the building's housing company, requesting him to remove the flag. He posted about the incident on his Instagram feed.

"I was given the choice of hanging the flag between the windows or between the double doors to the balcony. The housing company said that would be OK. In other words I can display the flag, but the issue is that I can't change the building's facade because it's an old house," Kettunen said.

Kettunen called the property manager after talking with the chair of the housing company's board. The manager told him he would discuss the matter with the board.

But Kettunen said that since the board has not made a decision, he can keep the flag where he put it until the end of the week.

"I'm not going to take it down," he said.

Housing companies can decide

The Finnish Real Estate Association's (Suomen Kiinteistöliitto) lead lawyer, Kristel Pynnönen, confirmed that housing companies are able to make rules about the exteriors of buildings.

"You can't hang anything off a balcony. Sometimes it can be a question of five centimetres. In this case it is a question of the resident not being allowed to add anything to the building's facade," Pynnönen said.

However, the legal expert said Kettunen should be permitted to display the flag, as long as it remains within the confines of the balcony railing - or indoors.

"It would have been different if something objectively offensive is displayed," she explained, saying that things like swastikas are not permitted.

The chair of the Finnish Real Estate Management Federation, Toivo Korhonen, agreed with Pynnönen about building facades being off-limits, saying that disputes over things like flags can sometimes be a question of differing values.

"A housing company can have clashes over differing values with tenants, that is, what is considered appropriate and what is not. Some are irritated by people beating their rugs on Sundays, but it isn't a holy day for everyone," Korhonen pointed out.

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