Homes for the Holidays – decor and lighting in your community.

By Erum Kistemaker

With the holiday season coming to an abrupt ending, I have been receiving a lot of questions regarding restrictions on holiday lights and decor within community associations. The reoccurring questions are regarding how long decorations and lights can stay up, what kind of decor and can it be religious in nature? As we all know, home decor can differ depending upon owners’ nationality, culture, faith, and personal taste. 

In order to assist associations reduce their stress and liability. It is suggested that the association adopt specific holiday decorating policy/guideline (similar to ARC) guidelines. The rules/guidelines should address how many days prior to a holiday that decorations may be installed; how many days after a holiday decorations must be removed; during what hours lighting displays may be lit; during what hours displays with sound may run; limiting the number of allowable displays; limiting the size of displays; and limiting the location of displays. 

Another important issue to consider while drafting the policy the board/members should consider and survey whether to allow religious displays. It is important to Note, associations are subject to the Fair Housing Act, prohibited discriminatory housing practices on the basis of specific categories including religion. A rule prohibiting certain religious holiday displays or even all religious holiday displays could be challenged as being discriminatory on its face or as having a discriminatory effect against residents on the basis of religion. In practice, then, it is better to draft rules which focus on more general details such as the size, number, and location of displays as opposed to restricting the particular content of the displays themselves.

If your association decides that they would like to adopt a holiday decoration policy, it is advisable that you consult with an attorney to discuss the precise wording of the policy and process for its adoption. Please note, our firm specializes in the area of community association law.