Decorating For The Holidays-What is Allowed?

By Lanier Coulter, Esq.

Published December 11, 2013

 

During the holidays, residents often decorate their property with things such as wreaths, flags and lights. However, the holidays hold different meanings and customs for residents.  Some residents may celebrate Christmas, while others celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.  It is common for boards of directors to receive questions or complaints on what sort of decorations and customs are acceptable.

 

The governing documents for most communities allow for seasonal decorations, as well as define a time frame specifying how long holiday decorations can be displayed within the community.  However, when it comes to allowing decorations, and enforcing these regulations, an association should be inclusive as possible to avoid any potential claims of discrimination under the Federal Fair Housing Act. For example, a community association should not adopt regulations allowing for Christmas lights to be put up during the customary time period, but which would preclude a Jewish owner from hanging a mezuzah during its respective time period. Boards should also be sensitive to holiday traditions or decorations from other cultures or religions of which it may not be aware.

  

Additionally, an association should not spend money decorating for a particular religious holiday on common property to the exclusion of other religious holidays.  The easiest way to avoid this issue is to decorate for the season and avoid religious decorations on the association property altogether.  In the alternative, if a group of owners would like to put up a Christmas tree in the community clubhouse, the association should also afford the same opportunity for owners of different religions.

  

Remaining aware of and sensitive to the fact that the holidays are celebrated in a variety of ways with a variety of customs will help a board of directors successfully navigate the season and avoid potential liability.


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G. Lanier Coulter, Jr. - owner/founder of the firm. He is a 1998 graduate of Oglethorpe University and a 2001 graduate of Emory University School of Law, where he was the recipient

of the Attorneys' Title Guaranty Fund Award.  

 

Lanier is a member of the state Bar of Georgia and the DeKalb County Bar Association.  He is the author of "Don't Wait Until it's Too Late, Statutes of Limitation and How They Can Affect Your Association's Rights" which appeared in Georgia Commons, a Publication of Community Associations Institute of Georgia, Inc.  

 

Lanier practices primarily in the area of community association law.  Lanier assists associations in interpretation and enforcement of their governing documents (covenant enforcement and collection of assessments) and in the negotiation, financing and execution of major renovation and rehabilitation projects.  He is an instructor of continuing education courses for community association managers and attorneys, including, "Dealing With Difficult People," "Problem Solving for Planned Communities," and "Condominium Law." 

 

Currently Lanier serves as a member of the Amicus Committee the Community Association Institute and a member of the Legislative Action Committee for the Georgia for Chapter of the Community Association Institute.  He was the recipient of the 2011 Rising Star Award in the CAI-Georgia Chapter.

Contact Lanier at: glc@coulterlawfirm.net