Condominiums typically have strict decoration rules to preserve the aesthetics and property values of the association. But during the holiday season — where most homeowners want to express their holiday spirit — how should boards handle their condo decorations rules?
Condo Decorations Rules: A Case Against Restrictive and Unfair Policies
Those who live in condo units are well-aware of their association’s decoration rules and regulations. As stakeholders in the association, owners know that these policies are crucial to maintaining property values. However, decorating for the holidays is a classic American tradition. Seeing festive decorations is one of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit.
As such, condo associations should think twice about implementing unfair and restrictive holiday decoration policies. Here are some points to consider when creating condo decorations rules.
Prohibiting Religious Holiday Decorations
In the Novi suburb of Detroit, an HOA came under fire after it had banned a family from displaying a Nativity scene on their front lawn. The HOA was forced to apologize after receiving widespread media attention and international protests. In Chicago, a COA faced legal action after it had removed a mezuzah from a Jewish family’s doorpost. There are many more cases like these throughout the United States.
Prohibiting religious holiday decorations could open up your association with religious discrimination lawsuits based on the Fair Housing Act. In some states like Chicago and Florida, there are also laws that prohibit the ban of religious displays or symbols. Remember that your condo owners have a legal right to equality and non-discrimination.
If your association’s governing documents have rules regarding the display of religious holiday decorations, make sure that it is implemented fairly and uniformly. For instance, you cannot ban owners from having mezuzahs on their doorposts but at the same time, allow Christmas wreaths.
Defining What is Tasteful vs Obnoxious
Many condo association’s governing documents will have a provision against tacky or obnoxious holiday decorations. Owners must only stick to tasteful apartment décor ideas. However, there is no 100% true consensus on what is tasteful and obnoxious. To avoid misunderstandings and disputes regarding holiday decorations, make sure to clearly define what the association considers as tasteful and obnoxious. These should be written down in your governing documents.
Fair Policies to Include in Your Condo Decoration Rules
Need help with your condo association’s holiday decoration rules? Here are fair and reasonable policies that you can implement.
1. Establish Holiday Decoration Schedule
Some associations give owners free rein on how they decorate their units during the holiday season. However, they have strict rules on when these decorations come up and come down.
The general standard for holiday decorations is to allow them 30 days before Christmas. Then, they must be taken down within the first two weeks of the new year. For other holidays like Halloween, many associations allow owners to display decorations at least two weeks before the specific holiday and have them removed the following week.
2. Implement Aesthetic Guidelines
For associations that want to maintain uniformity during the holiday season, consider implementing aesthetic guidelines for the owners. For instance, you can decide on a specific color palette for the entire building. You can also choose neutral holiday decorations so that residents do not feel that the association is biased towards a certain religion or holiday.
Prior to the holiday season, the board can put up sample boards. The owners will then vote on which aesthetic they prefer to have for the holidays. Since it’s impossible to please every owner, having a majority vote will prevent disputes or trouble.
3. Prohibit Holiday Decorations that Create Hazards
Holiday decoration restrictions are fair if the reason is to promote the health and safety of the community.
For example, you can prohibit large decorations outside units as they could create tripping hazards for the other residents. You can also prohibit candles and dry Christmas trees as they create fire hazards for the condominium.
Bright, flashing lights can cause migraines and trigger seizures so the association may also want to place some restrictions on these holiday decors. Meanwhile, sound-producing decorations could become a nuisance so you can implement rules like turning them off by 8 p.m.
Make sure to consult your local fire department on which holiday decorations could be dangerous for the condo association. Communicate this clearly to the owners so that they understand why you are prohibiting certain holiday decorations.
4. Require Permission for Exterior Holiday Decorations
Condo associations have strict rules for how owners decorate exterior surfaces such as windows, balconies, decks, patios, driveways, and lawns. This is so that the building has a uniform appearance from the ground up.
If you want to give owners some leeway during the holidays — but still have control over the aesthetics of your condominium — consider having the owners submit applications to your architectural review committee. You can set up guidelines on how owners can decorate their exteriors.
Through the application process, the association can ensure that all the holiday decorations are aligned with the aesthetics of the building. Just make sure to act swiftly so that owners have enough time to decorate their units.
5. Announce Condo Decorations Rules Ahead of the Holiday Season
The condo association should announce its holiday decoration policies early. Post them in the lobby and on elevator notice boards. You can also make the announcement electronically through the HOA online portal, website, social media accounts, or email.
If owners know the condo decorations rules before they shop for the holidays, the association will see better, overall compliance. It also gives owners the chance to raise their décor-related concerns to the board. You can avoid potential liabilities and disputes by making these changes or accommodations before the start of the holiday season.
Condo Decorations Rules That Promote Unity and Equality
The holiday season isn’t the time to instigate fights or disputes with the members of your community. Everybody just wants to experience the holiday spirit. Keep this in mind when you are formulating your condo decorations rules for the upcoming holiday season. It’s still possible to promote the interests of the association without impinging on the religious and spiritual traditions of your homeowners. Consider unity and equality as your apartment essentials for the holiday season.
Want to keep homeowners informed about your condo decorations rules? Contact the Condo Manager team today! Call us at (800) 626-1267 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our association management software solutions.
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