Since before recorded history, people have celebrated events by decorating homes and public spaces to mark this or that special day. We still love to adorn our doors, windows, and other areas with festive décor at different times of year, but in a modern, densely-populated setting like a condo association or HOA, the diversity of faiths, ethnic backgrounds and traditions can make knowing what to display and how to display it more complicated than just hanging a wreath on the door or placing some poinsettias in the lobby. Whether your community is a high-rise tower in the heart of the city, or a sprawling suburban development, it’s important for boards to approach holiday decorating like they approach any other element of governance; with fairness, consistency, and community well-being firmly in mind.
There are many arguments for and against allowing holiday decorations; the former including the cohesive and morale-boosting effect of decorating as a community activity, and the latter including the notion that blinking lights can be a nuisance, that haphazard or ostentatious decorations negatively impact the overall ‘curb appeal’ of the community, and that what’s decorative to some may be offensive to others. It’s the job of a community’s board to balance these concerns and decide upon a neighborly approach to holiday decorating.
Keeping Holidays Happy
How much is too much, how religious is too religious and how long is too long to keep up those holiday lights are all things that must be decided and regulated by association boards. In an effort to keep everything fair and transparent, many community management companies strongly recommend that boards have formal decorating policies related to holiday décor. Despite the wisdom of putting guidelines in writing, many buildings and associations have no formal policy governing holiday decorating. Others have rules strictly forbidding the display of any holiday-related items outside of individual units, says Josh Koppel, president of H.S.C. Management Corp., based in Yonkers, New York.
“In their bylaws, they say you’re not allowed decorate the common areas – and that includes on the outside of apartment doors,” Koppel says, noting that some make exceptions. “I have buildings that do decorate in the lobby [for] Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa.”
But just because many buildings and associations don’t have such a policy doesn’t mean they can’t draft one, or that there aren’t some generally accepted etiquette points for holiday decorating in multifamily settings.