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Condo | HOA Lawyers

Don’t Let Decorations Ruin Your Holidays

Does the sight of red ornaments give you the blues?  Do blue and white lights make you see red?  Does causing holiday decoration removal leave you feeling like the green Grinch?
Since Labor Day, some of your neighbors have been unpacking their finest holiday decorations to display and spread holiday cheer while many of your other neighbors want these displays to remain packed in boxes never to see the light of day.  While one neighbor wants to spread cheer, the next believes it’s not cheer that’s spreading but an eyesore that detracts from community aesthetics.  Many board members justifiably feel caught in the middle.  Decorations can display a sense of community, neighborliness, and fun that can make an area a desirable place to live.  It is also true however, than an eight foot tall Santa Claus still on display in February can be an eyesore.  How can the board enforce use restrictions while maintaining a sense of neighborliness and community?
The goal for every association should be to develop and utilize a set of clear and concise rules for holiday decorating.  This way, aesthetics may be preserved while a sense of “community” and/or “fun” is not lost.  A total prohibition of decorative displays is not always necessary to preserve community aesthetics.  Holiday decorating rules must not be discriminatory (be aware of religious differences) and must be designed to promote the health and safety of the residents and protection of property values.
Reasonable guidelines for decorating may include a timeline for installation and removal of decorations.  For example, allow decorations to be displayed from Thanksgiving through early January.  The size, extent, and areas of permissible installation of the decorations can also be regulated.  Specifications for lights may also be made.  For example, requiring lights to be rated for outdoor use protects the safety of the property.
Keep in mind that all holiday decoration rules must be considerate of the safety, comfort, and property rights of all residents.  Many associations have successfully navigated the course of decoration rule enforcement and neighborliness by surveying their residents to find out what types of decorations neighbors like and dislike and to build a consensus prior to rules being imposed.  Many associations have formed holiday decorations committees and publish a holiday newsletter.  The newsletter contains the decorating rules together with announcements about community holiday gatherings, charitable collections, holiday decorating contests, and solicitations for volunteers to donate items to help decorate common areas.
Creating reasonable rules for holiday decorations are an objective and effective way to enable a board to enjoy the holidays and avoid the label of “Grinch.”

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