The holiday season approaches once again – Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve, soon followed by Chinese New Year.
Most holidays include some combination of lighting, candles, ornaments, trees, parties and other festivities. Condo communities, home to people of different faiths, backgrounds and cultures, allow for these celebrations in the home and common areas.
Allowances for holiday observances and decorations should be, and perceived to be, equal and fair. Restrictions and prohibitions should relate to safety or other considerations independent of specific occasions. While prohibiting all decorations may be allowed, prohibiting specific decorations is likely to be viewed as discriminatory.
Allowances for holiday decorations can be tricky. Communities generally restrict how hallways, lobbies, elevators and other common areas should look through their rules. Residents generally have no discretion in decorating these areas. The board, or a group or committee working through them, may have authority to decorate a lobby or other area.
Doors are part of common areas. Where wreaths and other items are allowed on doors and window frames, these should be adhered in a way that will not puncture or damage the surface.
Tips for establishing rules relating to decorations:
- Dates – Specify start and end dates when decorations are allowed in common areas. Dates should be consistent for the holidays they represent.
- Location – Rules should identify what areas can be decorated and, if necessary, which should not be decorated.
- Type – Be specific as to what is allowed. Rules which limit decorations to those that are ‘tasteful’ and/or ‘appropriate’ rely on the judgement of residents and should be avoided.
- Method – Specifying how decorations are to be affixed can help avoid damage to common areas.
- Hard Restrictions – Specific restrictions should be limited and based on safety considerations. Some communities prohibit natural trees which can be a fire hazard in the home. Improperly discarded, natural trees create a mess in common areas and can block a trash chute.