December 18, 2009

Enforcing Restrictions on Holiday Decorations

The holiday season can be tough on community association boards. Owners sometimes place decorations on or near their homes that violate the governing documents, pose safety hazards, and/or annoy other owners. Informal attempts to reign in their exuberance typically result in accusations that the boards are acting like Scrooges and blunt refusals to tone down or remove the displays. Boards are then forced to decide whether the decorations merit fines or other punitive measures.

There is nothing wrong with enforcing restrictions on owners’ holiday displays if those restrictions have a reasonable basis (maintaining a uniform appearance, reducing the risk of property damage, etc.) and all owners are held to the same standard. However, boards may also wish to consider amending their association’s governing documents to reflect the prevailing practice in the community or a more permissive policy in general. This usually involves allowing owners to display holiday decorations within a specified time period as long as they do not pose a danger or unduly bother other owners. Boards retain the power to act in extreme situations while otherwise permitting the owners to celebrate the season as they see fit.

As a wise man said long ago, there is a time and place for everything. Strict enforcement of broad rules is appropriate in many situations. A more flexible approach may be preferable in other situations. Boards that make these types of distinctions are laying the groundwork for happier communities.