No matter what the holiday or celebration may be, your HOA board needs to make sure that residents don’t run amok with their decorating. How can you establish—and enforce—decorating policies without putting a damper on your community’s festive spirit? Here are four tips for letting residents express their holiday creativity while keeping them from going “hog wild.”
1. ABC – Always be consistent.
Board members should have a solid understanding of the association’s governing documents to know what residents are and aren’t allowed to put on their house or in their yard. We recommend Board’s remain consistent with everyone and for every holiday. Use this as an example, if your Minnesota community association doesn’t allow signs or banners in yards, don’t make an exception for a particular time of the year. If the governing documents don’t have an explicit ban, then allow residents to decorate their yard and home so long as they abide by the association’s guidelines and safety risks. 
May not be a bad idea to send a quick reminder to homeowners prior to holidays to eliminate extra work like violation letters and phone calls. If your Minnesota association has a community website, post the policies on the home page, if your association has a newsletter, include the policies there as well. Email is always a great option if you have a good database of emails addresses. Sending these reminders are a great way to get in front of any new residents that may have moved in since the last holiday. An experienced association management company can help Board’s effectively communicate policies like these to current and new residents.
2. Different people have different tastes, and that’s okay.
Let’s be honest, we all believe we have better taste everyone else, but try to refrain from imposing personal preferences on others. What one person thinks is tacky might have sentimental value to another. Likewise, having several lighted displays might feel traditional to you, your neighbor might think it’s gaudy.
What’s the bottom line? Taste is subjective, so don’t get caught up in disputes about a homeowner’s preferences. If several neighbors start complaining about certain types of decorations, or about a particular home, a discussion should be arranged for the association’s membership and discuss the possibility of amending the governing documents. 
3. Don’t go crazy.
Overall, most Twin Cities homeowners understand the reason for creating certain guidelines around holiday decorations such as limiting the duration that decorations can be displayed. Think about setting start and end dates or restricting the time of day that any illumination must be turned off so neighbors are not disturbed by bright lights. Always encourage consideration and common courtesy. It’s probably wise to steer clear from restricting any type of religious display. Doing so could put your Minnesota community association in jeopardy of a lawsuit if someone believes their religious expression have been restricted. 
4. Community association property (common areas) should be addressed separately.
Every association should set one clear guideline, and that is to ensure homeowners do not put up decorations for the community in any common areas without prior, written authorization from the Board of Directors as this could open the association to liability risks. 
If your Minnesota community association chooses to display holiday decorations in the lobby or clubhouse, the path for least resistance is to opt for nonreligious ones. Choose a winter wonderland theme in December and images of everything spring in March.
Focusing an association’s holiday decorating policies on noncontroversial aspects like safety, times, places and quantity will provide your community with needed guidelines without taking aim at specific religious beliefs. To learn more about how to set a holiday decorating policy for your Minnesota community association, contact FirstService Residential.
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Tuesday December 20, 2016