It seems that we decorate for just about everything these days – from the patriotic celebrations of summer to the plethora of festivities during the fall and winter months. Regardless of the holiday, the familiar decorations that come up throughout the year are more than just ornamental. For many, they represent a sense of comfort and community.
But every community association has its rules and standards to consider and holiday décor is not immune to them. So how do you enforce those rules and maintain your community standards without being a scrooge? Follow these four simple rules to maintain holiday spirit without décor running amok.
1. Be reasonable.
Most residents will be open to holiday décor restrictions, such as what times of the year they are allowed and how much can be displayed. If you haven’t already done so, consider surveying your residents to see what matters most to them when it comes to decorating for the holidays.
Set start and end dates for holiday displays. Establish “time of day” rules. Most people are aware that nobody wants holiday lights flickering in their window at 2 a.m., but it doesn’t hurt to remind residents to be considerate of their neighbors.
If you are in a condominium, consider establishing policies about adhering decorations to the building. They can damage the property’s exterior, including the waterproofing or stucco.
The one area you want to steer clear of is restricting religious displays at any time of year. This can quickly turn into a hot-button topic that will encourage nothing but friction.
A good property management company will be able to help you establish and enforce reasonable policies. If that company is large enough, their associates can tap into the experience of other team members to help your board know what works and doesn’t, and where possible pitfalls are.
2. Remember that common areas have different rules.
Placing holiday décor in a common area that is managed by the community can expose the association to danger and liability. Make sure residents know that these areas are off limits and that only the appropriate committee, the board or management team are allowed to work on any display.
If your community has chosen to decorate certain common areas, such as the lobby or clubhouse, you might want to consider keeping the decorations free from religious imagery or undertones. If your community association is passionate about keeping religious themes in your holiday décor, then make sure you present a balanced display where all faiths are equally represented.
“A simple solution is to hire an interior designer who specializes in holiday décor and incorporates both the latest trends and all the religious holidays,” recommends Maureen Connolly, vice president at FirstService Residential in St. Petersburg. “In our area, we have several firms who will store your decorations and add pieces each year to refresh the design, colors and more."
3. Apply the rules fairly.
The first step to ensuring that you are applying your rules fairly is to know the ins and outs of your governing documents. If there is an outright ban on holiday décor, then you must enforce that ban without exceptions, on all decorations and holiday displays throughout the year.
If your governing documents do not prohibit holiday decorations explicitly, and your association does not have a specific reason to do so, then you should allow reasonable décor that doesn’t pose a safety risk. Survey the residents before establishing policies so you know what the community feeling about decorations is.
Communicate any rules you set through a letter or website posting prior to each holiday so that residents that decorate are reminded of the policy and decorate accordingly.
Send a reminder to residents in May and in September, right before the big summer and fall holiday seasons. Make new residents aware of the policies when they move in. A quality property management company will be able to help your board communicate the rules effectively and easily to your community.
4. Remember that people’s tastes and likes differ.
We all have different likes and dislikes and, as a result, there is no one definition of what’s “tasteful.” The light display that you consider a whimsical window treatment may be obnoxious to someone else; a precious family heirloom that holds great meaning for you may be an eyesore for your neighbor; the wreath your neighbor lovingly created may not appeal to everyone. You can save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you refrain from arguing about the aesthetics of holiday décor. If your board receives a lot of feedback about particular décor styles, start a conversation with all residents about possibly updating your association’s governing documents.
The holidays are supposed to be a time to come together and have a good time, and your holiday décor policies should not take away from that. Keep your focus on simple rules of location, time, place, size and safety and keep the aesthetic opinions to yourself. If you do that, you’ll find that’s the kind of gift that truly keeps on giving.
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