The holidays are officially upon us. Does your association have rules on visible décor and lighting? Rulemaking can be a quandary. If you allow displays for some, you have to allow for all. Or the other option, none. Either way can be challenging. Fortunately the Community Associations Institute has developed sample holiday and religious display guidelines that are easy for residents to follow and simple to enforce. Here are a few of CAI’s tips.
- Ask residents whether they believe your community association would benefit from a rule for holiday and religious displays.
- Consult with your community association manager and attorney if your community decides it would benefit from a rule.
- Make sure your policy is consistent with your association’s governing documents, as well as state and local laws.
- Create a holiday and religious display rule only if necessary.
- Include community consensus in the rule. It may contain the start and end dates of when decorations may be displayed, hours when lights and displays in yards or balconies may be on, and specifics regarding size, sounds, and placement.
- Make sure the policy is clear, enforceable, and reasonable.
- Request feedback from residents throughout the process.
- Communicate new information to all residents after the policy is adopted.
- Remind residents of the rule prior to each holiday season.
- Review your policy regularly and determine if it needs to be updated.
- Read updates from the community association, attend meetings, and contribute to the conversation.
- Know your community association’s rule before putting up your holiday decorations and religious displays.
- Ask your board for clarification if you have a question about the rule.
- Volunteer on the board or on committees to influence the community’s approach.
- Enjoy your neighbors and your community during the holidays and throughout the year.
If you need help crafting a holiday decorating resolution or updating a current one, consider some of the following elements:
Timing. Holiday decorations may be displayed no more than X days before and X days after the actual holiday.
Common areas. A committee will survey residents and determine what holidays will be represented on common areas. Decorations, such as small white lights on trees and menorahs, will be installed by the association. Santa figures, sleighs, reindeer, and Nativity scenes are prohibited on common elements.
Individual properties. Homeowners may install decorations on their properties. Holiday lighting may only be used from sunset to 10 p.m. and must not interfere with a neighbor’s use of his or her property. The decorations must not be offensive or obscene.
Enforcement. Items that do not conform to these guidelines will be removed by the association.
Once the board has approved a holiday policy, make sure your residents are informed of the new rules.
- Post the policy on your community’s website and send an email to residents.
- Pass out copies of the policy door-to-door.
- Publish the policy in your community’s newsletter.
- Include details about the policy in your association’s welcome packets, settlement sheet, and disclosure packets.
Keep in mind that holiday decorating is seasonal; if you approve your policy during the spring or summer, send residents a friendly reminder in the fall. It’s also good to print the information in your newsletter at least once every year so that no one is caught off guard.
Additionally, here are some ways to create new holiday traditions in your community:
- Bring together volunteers who like collaborating with each other.
- Create a social committee that can brainstorm ideas for events.
- Make the mission about making people happy, not putting organizers in the limelight.
- Tap local resources and experts.
- Involve older children as volunteers so they can learn about giving back to the community.
- Ask vendors and local businesses for donations of goods or money for the event.
- Task your community clubs for support.
- Save money. Reuse decorations, lights, and volunteer T-shirts each year.
- Prioritize the parts of the holiday celebration that are most important to residents and skip the rest when budget is tight.
- Spark some competition with decorating contests.
- Plan more festivities during the year if a winter holiday celebration succeeds.
Download the complete guide here.