Trends in Condo/HOA Holiday Decoration Rules (Hint: We Said Holiday)
Hellmuth & Johnson Partner, Phaedra Howard, discusses holiday decorations with HOAleader.com:
That’s also on the radar of Phaedra J. Howard, a partner specializing in community association law at Hellmuth & Johnson PLLC in Edina, Minn. “I spank them every time they get specific about what holiday or what religion,” she says. “You have to be careful about that. Also be careful that you don’t ask owners to take down religious items, such as a mezuzah. There’s fair housing case law in which associations have tried to force people to remove religious items from their doors, and the association was found to have discriminated.”
Of course, odds are you’ll run into an owner who pushes the limits. “One interesting thing happened a few years ago,” recalls Howard.” The association’s rules allowed decorations for 30 days before and 30 days after the holiday. One unit owner put up lights on their balcony, and I don’t think they were holiday-based on at all.
“The association kept sending notices to take them down because they were up all the time,” she states. “The owner claimed to be a pagan who worshipped the full moon—and there’s a full moon every 30 days. I researched that claim and didn’t find anything. But the association ended up revising its rules to ensure that decorations had to be taken down 15 days after the holiday so that owner would have to take those lights down and put them pack up more frequently.”
Oh, and then there’s the owner with a sense of humor. “Another a couple of years ago, I represented a townhome where each unit had a front patio area where owners could put chairs,” she states. “It was March or April, and the owner still had this full-sized fake skeleton in the chair.
“It was way past Halloween, so the association asked that it be removed,” says Howard. “The owner put bunny ears and a basket on it and then claimed it was an Easter decoration. The association said, ‘Fine, but that comes done at the end of April!'”