People decorate for everything these days – from Valentine’s Day to the patriotic celebrations of summer and on to the fall festivities and winter wonderlands. Many people derive a sense of community and comfort from seeing familiar decorations at the same time each year.
There are also your community association’s rules and standards to consider. And as a board member, you get to be the one who enforces them. So how can you do so without being “that person?” Never fear – we’ll help you put some strategies up your sleeve. Follow these tips to maintain a festive community without décor running amok.

1. Apply the rules with fairness.

In order to apply the rules with fairness, you should know your governing documents backwards and forwards. If there’s an outright ban on holiday decor, then enforce the ban (nicely) across all decorations and displays throughout the year. You can’t make exceptions. On the other hand, if your governing documents don’t prohibit them explicitly, and you don’t see a reason to do so, then allow reasonable decor that doesn’t pose a safety risk. It’ll help if you communicate the rules through a simple letter or website posting prior to each holiday, so residents can decorate accordingly. Refresh these communications regularly; new residents need to be made aware when they move in as well. An excellent community association management company can be instrumental in helping you draft an effective communications plan. 

2. Be reasonable.

Most residents are receptive to holiday décor restrictions such as what time of year its allowed and how much can be displayed. Consider surveying residents to learn what matters most to them. If appropriate, set a reasonable start date and end date for holiday décor displays for the entire year. Same goes for time of day rules – nobody wants holiday lights flickering in their window at three in the morning, so all neighbors need to be aware and considerate of others as well. The one area you want to steer clear of is restricting religious displays at any time of year. This is a hot button topic that’s sure to encourage nothing but friction.

3. Remember that tastes are different.

A precious heirloom decoration that holds great meaning for you may be an eyesore for someone else. The light display you see as a whimsical window treatment may seem obnoxious to a neighbor. The wreath you lovingly crafted might seem like a crime against branches to another person. The short story: we all have different likes and dislikes, so nobody can define what’s “tasteful” for everyone. Save yourself time and frustration by refraining from arguing about aesthetics. If you get a lot of feedback about particular styles of decor, start a dialog with all residents about updating your association’s governing documents. 

4. Your common areas have different rules.

Here’s where it all gets pretty black and white. If it’s part of a common area, residents should not be decorating it without the permission of the association board. Placing holiday decor in an area that the community association must maintain opens up danger and liability to both parties. Make sure your residents know these areas are clearly off limits. Likewise, should your community choose to decorate common areas like clubhouses or lobbies, then remember to keep the decor free from religious undertones or imagery. Using lights and wreaths is a pretty safe way to go in winter for example; fresh spring flowers are a welcome sign of the season in March. If your community association is passionate about keeping religion in the holidays, then make sure that all faiths are represented equally. 
Your stress level will depend mostly on how you approach residents when it comes to holiday decorations. Keep your focus on simple rules of location, time, place, size and safety and keep the aesthetic opinions to yourself. That’s the kind of gift that truly keeps on giving for every holiday throughout the year. 
Tuesday September 27, 2016