For many homeowners, the holiday season is the time of the year when they can show off their creativity and decorate their houses to their liking. Whether that means putting up an inflatable Santa Claus on the roof or something else entirely is completely at their discretion. For planned communities, though, it is not uncommon to be bound by certain HOA holiday decoration rules.
HOA Holiday Decoration Rules to Implement in Your Community
The most wonderful time of the year is here. For a lot of people, that means eating a ton of food, cozying up by the fireplace, and attending holiday events. And then there are those who enjoy decorating their house with lights and ornaments the most.
For those who own homes outside an association, decorating their houses would come as a no-brainer. Aside from local ordinances, there are virtually no rules to follow, and they can do whatever they please. On the other hand, those who live in HOA communities don’t have the luxury of exercising total control over holiday decorations.
While no two communities are exactly alike, most homeowners associations have some form of holiday decoration rules in place. If your HOA board is still crafting yours or is considering revising them, here are sample HOA rules and regulations for holiday decorations.
1. Set a Timeline
The timeline should be a key part of your HOA holiday decoration guidelines. This timeline indicates when homeowners can start putting up holiday decorations and when they should remove them.
This can vary from one association to another, though it is common to allow decorations to go up no earlier than a month prior to the holiday. Then, owners should take down the decorations no later than two weeks following the holiday.
It may seem strange to control the schedule of holiday decorations. But, it boils down to maintaining the aesthetics of the neighborhood. Having winter decorations up in mid-July does not make sense and can bring down the curb appeal of the community.
2. Avoid Distracting Lights
Sparkling lights can liven up any home’s exterior. Take them too far, though, and you may have an accident hazard in the community. As part of your HOA lighting rules, prohibit lights that are blinding or distracting. That means no bright flashes. Homeowners should also place their holiday lights carefully, making sure not to point them directly at the road or in any place that may hinder the view of drivers.
But, drivers are not the only ones you should think about. Bright, flashing lights can also distract and be a nuisance to neighbors. Those who have certain medical conditions may also suffer from seizures as a result. When it comes to HOA Christmas lights, it is wise to limit them to a particular level of brightness.
Additionally, residents should not keep their holiday lights on all night. Not only is it a waste of electricity, but it can also disrupt neighbors who are trying to get some shuteye.
3. Prohibit Large Decorations
When it comes to HOA holiday decorations, size also comes into play. Most homeowners associations place a ban on decorations that are too large. Even more, HOAs specifically prohibit inflatable decorations as these are usually the most massive. Moreover, inflatables are not the best-looking decorations in the market, as they usually appear tacky and outdated.
4. Require Decorations to Be Anchored
Some decorations are too heavy or large that they need anchoring. Even smaller decorations, though, can blow away and injure someone when a storm hits. As such, your HOA holiday decoration rules should require owners to securely anchor their decorations to the ground or to the home structure. This way, they can keep themselves and their neighbors safe from harm.
5. Avoid Noisy Decorations
Most homeowners associations already have rules concerning noise levels. For instance, an HOA may not allow loud noises from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. as these are prime sleeping hours.
While noise rules typically apply to barking dogs and loud parties, they can also carry over to homeowners association holiday decorations.
Not a lot of holiday decorations make noise. But, those that do should be restricted from operating during odd hours. Some associations ban noise-making decorations altogether, though this may not go over well with select homeowners.
6. Limit Decorations to Private Property
Although this may seem like an obvious rule, you would be surprised at how many residents violate it. Common areas belong under the association’s jurisdiction, so residents should not be allowed to decorate these spaces. Homeowners should only decorate their own homes, never extending them beyond their property line or to the common areas of the community.
Adopting a Fine System for Rule Breakers
Rules exist to maintain curb appeal and property values in an HOA-run community. Sometimes, though, your board will run into an owner who accidentally breaks the rules or just plainly disregards them. For either case, it is a good idea to set up a fine system to discourage violations of your HOA holiday decor guidelines.
How much should you charge in fines when a homeowner breaks your decoration rules? It depends. There is no universal dollar amount that will work for all associations. It will largely depend on the type of association you have and your location. Furthermore, your bylaws and CC&Rs may already have a fine structure in place. In that case, you can simply follow that.
A good rule of thumb, though, is to charge a set amount for the first offense — $50 to $100 is a good place to start. An amount too low may not be enough to discourage violations, whereas an amount too high might be considered unreasonable and invite backlash from residents. And then there are associations that charge a fine for each day they leave prohibited decorations up.
Protecting Your Homeowners Association from Liability
You have probably heard of those horror stories where the disgruntled homeowner files a lawsuit against their HOA for discriminatory rules. This can happen with holiday decoration rules, too. Fortunately, there are some precautions you can take to limit liability.
Here are HOA holiday decoration tips that will help your association stay out of legal trouble:
Don’t Limit Colors
It may seem harmless to prohibit the use of certain colors for decorations, but this can actually put your association in hot water. By banning specific colors or only allowing certain ones, you are subjecting your HOA to culturally insensitive rules. As a result, homeowners may accuse the association of discrimination.
Use an Inclusive Term
You may not know it, but using a term like “Christmas” can alienate some members of your community. Not everyone follows the Christian faith, so marketing HOA-related events such as “Christmas party” or “Christmas decoration contest” can be interpreted as discriminatory. Instead, use a more general and inclusive term like “holiday.” Go from a “Christmas party” to a “holiday party” and from “Christmas decorations” to “holiday decorations.”
A Happy and Harmonious Holiday Season for All
Decorations can definitely brighten up your mood and enhance the beauty of a community. But, as with a lot of things, you must exercise restraint. You can do this by imposing HOA holiday decoration rules that homeowners can follow. From setting a timeline to limiting decorations to private properties, everyone in your HOA can have an enjoyable and amicable holiday season.
Is your HOA in dire need of professional help? Clark Simson Miller offers a wide variety of HOA management services, from financial management to collections. Call us today at 865.315.7505 or contact us online to request a proposal.
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