If you’ve ever driven on the Loop 360 in Austin between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you know that Texans like their holiday decorations to be bigger and brighter. And that often goes for residents in homeowners associations, too.
However, 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. Be consistent
It should go without saying that, as a board member, you need to be very familiar with your governing documents. This way, you’ll know what is and isn’t allowed with regard to holiday decorations. Apply the rules consistently to everyone and for every holiday. For example, if your HOA does not allow holiday decorations at all, do not make exceptions for particular times of year. If there is no explicit ban, allow residents to decorate their property as they want, as long as they adhere to the HOA regulations and avoid safety risks.
It is a good idea to remind residents of the rules prior to each holiday. You can communicate your HOA decorating policies on your website, in your community newsletter or by email or postal mail. Also, be sure to inform new residents of these policies as soon as they move in. An experienced community association management company can help you effectively communicate your decorating policy to current and new residents.
2. Don’t go overboard with the rules
In general, residents understand the need to restrict certain aspects of holiday decorating, for instance, limiting display periods and amount of décor. Try to set start and end dates for displaying holiday decor. Restrict the time of day for any type of illumination so that neighbors are not disturbed by lighting while they are trying to sleep, and encourage consideration and common courtesy. Stay away from restricting any type of religious display no matter what time of year. Not only can this become a heated issue, but your HOA could face legal action if any residents believe you have restricted their religious expression.
3. Allow for aesthetic differences
Everyone’s taste is different, so refrain from imposing your personal preferences on others. A holiday decoration that has sentimental value to one resident could seem tacky to another. Likewise, having several lighted displays might feel traditional to you while seeming gaudy to your neighbor.
The bottom line is that taste is very subjective, so don’t get caught up in disputes about a resident’s aesthetic preferences. If many residents complain about certain types of décor or about a particular neighbor’s choices, arrange for a discussion among all HOA members about possibly amending your governing documents. 
4. Address common areas separately
The rules that apply to individual homes will be different from those that apply to your common areas. Make it clear that residents may not decorate common areas without the explicit permission of the HOA board. Putting décor in areas that the HOA maintains can open the HOA to liability risks.
If your HOA does decide to display holiday decorations in places such as your lobby or clubhouse, it is best to opt for nonreligious ones. For example, stick to a winter wonderland theme in December and images of spring flowers in March. If your community really wants religious displays, be sure you are representing the full range of faiths.
Focusing your holiday decorating policies on noncontroversial aspects like safety, times, places and quantity will provide your community with necessary guidelines while leaving you with a lot less headaches. To learn more about how to set holiday decorating and other important HOA policies, contact FirstService Residential, the leading community association management company in Texas. 
Tuesday October 25, 2016