It’s the time of year again when many homes are being decorated for the holidays. Strings of lights are on the homes or in the windows (and trees and bushes) and the inflatable Santas are sitting on the front laws. There may be candy canes, sleigh bells and mistletoe. Rudolph may be hiding among the greenery, and possibly even some elves. While many people enjoy the holiday decor, most are ready for it to be down after the new year. If your association don’t have a policy in place, now is the time to adopt one, to avoid Christmas (lights) in July.
The first step always in adopting new rules or regulations is to check the governing documents. Does the board have the right to adopt a policy about holiday decorations? If so, great. There may even already be specifications in the declaration or bylaws that states when these decorations may be put up and when they must be taken down. In that case, the board may not need to do anything else (assuming the board has already adopted a compliance resolution). If, however, the documents give the board authority to adopt rules but nothing specifically addressed holiday decorations, now is the time to determine what is appropriate.
So what time frame is appropriate? Most people have their own thoughts about what is the correct length of time for decorations to be in place, and they are probably different for different holidays (Halloween or St. Patrick’s Day, for example, versus Christmas). Many boards that I’ve dealt with over the years felt that, for holidays between January 2 and Thanksgiving, it was sufficient to allow owners 10 days before and after the holiday to have decorations out. For holidays between the day after Thanksgiving and the January 1, most boards wanted to allow owners from the day after Thanksgiving until January 10 to have those decorations in place.
Another good question is what decorations are permissible? Again, check your documents, but the board may want to limit the wattage of lights or require that they cannot be directed into a neighboring home. The board may want to allow strings of lights but prohibit those inflatable Santas (or Rudolphs or snowmen). This may be a question of aesthetics or may be an issue of harmonious living, so the board should consider both.
Should the board have any restrictions on the installation or placement of the decorations? If the exterior of the homes are the responsibility of the association, the board may want to prohibit any installation that penetrates the exterior siding or envelope of the home. If the association maintains the landscaping, the board may want to restrict what may be placed on the lawn or in the bushes.
Ultimately the purpose of decorations is to celebrate and enjoy the holiday more, so while I think it is prudent for the board to consider these issues (and take action, if no rules or restrictions are in place), I also think the board should adopt rules cautiously and with the desires of the owners thoroughly considered. If your community looks like Peacock Lane, it would be imprudent to ban holiday lights. Whatever guidelines the board decides to adopt (whether for decorations or not), be sure to be in compliance with the governing documents and consider the desires of the majority of the owners in your community.