It’s that time of year when we start to see holiday decorations. Yes, the stores have begun displaying Halloween items along with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other holiday decorations at the same time. As we start to see the orange mini-lights for Halloween, condominium associations and property owner associations begin to deal with the issue of whether holiday decorations are permissible and if so, how long can they be displayed. Although when we read these stories, we may think that homeowners are over-reacting to a small issue, but what looks like a celebration of Halloween to one owner may seem way over-the-top to another. Rules for holiday decorations need to take into account ALL owners to be fair, effective, and enforceable. This blog post provides some common-sense guidance for your community association regarding holiday decorations.
The following provides a good checklist for your HOA Board to consider when faced with issues relating to holiday decorations:
- Does the Board have the authority to regulate holiday decorations? If not, your inquiry stops here.
- If so, what types of holiday decorations are permitted?
- What is the time period for displaying holiday decorations?
- Are the rules governing holiday decorations “neutral” and not violative of Fair Housing?
- How does the Association intend to enforce the rules?
When implementing or enforcing rules for holiday decorations, it is critical to communicate with the owners in the community. Sending out a newsletter or posting a letter on the Association’s website explaining the reasons and importance of the holiday decoration rule is helpful in gaining compliance. If the Association only sends out the rules, owners may perceive a “power play” by the Association rather than the message that the Association is simply enforcing the governing documents to maintain certain aesthetics in a community. It is very difficult for Associations to blend all of the different opinions owners may have on holiday decorations. On the other hand, owners should remember that a wonderfully carved jack o’lantern may be artwork to one owner, and just an abomination to another owner.
So as we enter this festive season, enjoy each of the holidays you celebrate, and learn something about the holidays your neighbors may celebrate. As it relates to your community association, make sure you understand any rules that govern holiday decorations. And for HOA Boards, work with your experienced community association attorney to ensure that you comply with the governing documents. Do your best to work with your neighbors so you do not end up on the evening news battling against Santa Claus!
Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law
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