A community association in the Tampa Bay area recently made international headlines when it said a homeowner put up his holiday decorations too early. It didn’t help that singer Mariah Carey weighed in on Twitter, saying, “My personal preference is to wait until after Thanksgiving but there’s no regulating festiveness.”

Community associations across the country are coming alive with festive lights and holiday decorations. Many have guidelines for homeowners to follow that detail the timing of when decorations may be displayed before and after the holiday and the hours when lights may be turned on, among other policies.

According to media reports, the Florida community has a policy that says Christmas decorations can’t be displayed until Thanksgiving Day. The homeowner had his lights strung by mid-November. A representative from the community said the association would consider amending its guidelines if enough homeowners support a change. That’s a common, sensible approach.

With apologies to Mariah Carey and her classic Christmas song, “All I Want for Christmas is You,” all community associations should want for the holidays are guidelines that are updated, fair, easy to follow, and owner supported.

While it might be too late for most communities to adjust their guidelines for holiday decorations at this point in the Christmas season, it’s never too early to plan for next year.

Community association board members should review their policies with the following advice in mind:

❚ Create holiday and religious display rules only if residents believe the community association would benefit from them.

❚ Consult with the community association manager and attorney if the community decides it would benefit from rules. Make sure the policies are consistent with the association’s governing documents as well as state and local laws.

❚ Request feedback from residents throughout the process and communicate new information to all residents after the policies are adopted. Make sure to review the policies regularly and determine if they need to be updated.

❚ Ensure that the policies are clear, enforceable, and reasonable. Also be sure to remind residents of the rules prior to each holiday season.

Community association residents also have a role to play. They should:

❚ Read updates from the community association, attend meetings, and contribute to the conversation.

❚ Know the community association’s rules before putting up holiday decorations and religious displays. Ask the board for clarification if there are questions.

❚ Consider volunteering on the board or on committees to influence the community’s approach.

Community association leaders should keep in mind that owners often like to decorate for holidays other than Hannukah and Christmas. After the new year, it’s a short hop to Valentine’s Day, then St. Patrick’s Day, then Easter, and then the star-spangled trifecta: Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day. And then it’s Halloween again. People have been known to decorate for these holidays and others with flags, window decals, and other accoutrements.

The same holiday decorations guidelines could still apply. Community associations should remind residents of their guidelines regularly so that no one is caught off guard.

>> Find more tips for the holiday season in “The Ultimate Guide to the Best Holiday Ever,” from the November/December 2021 issue of CAI’s Common Ground magazine.

  • Ella Cox

    Ella is a Communications Associate at CAI. Prior to joining the team, she worked in communications and marketing for an educational nonprofit in D.C. She has held a variety of different roles in education, advocacy, and event planning. Academically, she holds a B.A. in Corporate Communications from Belmont University and recently received her Masters in Communications & PR from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

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