It seems that we decorate for just about everything these days – especially the plethora of festivities during the fall and winter months. Regardless of the holiday, the familiar decorations that go 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 4 simple rules to preserve holiday spirit without letting décor run amok.
1. Be reasonable.
Most residents will be open to reasonable holiday décor restrictions, such as what times of the year they are allowed to have them up and how much they can display. 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.
Specify start and end dates for holiday displays, and 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. Decorations can damage the building’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.
2. Remember that common areas have different rules.
Allowing residents to place holiday décor in the community’s common area can expose the association to liability risks. Make sure residents know that these areas are off limits and that only members of the appropriate committee, your board or your management team are allowed to work on any community display.
You might want to consider keeping any community decorations you choose to put up in common areas, such as the lobby or clubhouse, free from religious imagery or undertones. If your community association is passionate about keeping religious themes in your holiday décor, make sure you present a balanced display in which all faiths are equally represented. A simple solution is to hire a designer or company that specializes in holiday décor and lighting. They will know how to incorporate the latest trends and balance multiple religious depictions.
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, you should allow reasonable décor that doesn’t pose a safety risk. Survey the residents before establishing policies so you have a good grasp on what the community feels about decorations.
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.
4. Remember that people’s tastes 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 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. You’ll find that doing this will be the kind of gift that truly keeps on giving.
Learn how to plan a stress-free holiday event in your community. Download our infographic, “Plan Holiday Events With Spirit, Not Stress.”