Holiday Decorations: Let's Talk About It
The holidays are here, which means residents are decorating their homes. For homeowners associations, though, it’s necessary to have rules in place about which HOA holiday decorations are allowed.
Regulating HOA Holiday Decorations
Homeowners living in an HOA community often question the need for holiday decoration rules. After all, it’s their property, so why can’t they decorate it how they like? To understand the purpose of these rules, it’s first important to remember why the HOA exists in the first place.
A homeowners association’s primary function is to maintain the community with the goal of improving property values. Part of maintaining the community is ensuring that the neighborhood retains or enhances its curb appeal. The HOA accomplishes this by creating rules for residents to follow, including rules concerning homeowners association holiday decorations.
In some places, local ordinances may restrict what type of decorations residents can put up. For instance, Halloween decorations that are too violent or gory can lead to several 911 calls and might result in a fine for the property owner. Bright lights and noisy decorations can also create nuisances in the neighborhood, causing local authorities to step in.
The task of coming up and enforcing decoration rules can be tricky for an HOA board, though. Consider the following when creating your HOA holiday decoration policies:
When associations fail to regulate the size of HOA holiday decorations, some homeowners might go crazy with them. Before you know it, you’ll be staring at a 20-foot inflatable Santa on a resident’s driveway or an eight-piece reindeer display mounted on their roof.
Your HOA board might want to think about imposing size restrictions to maintain the overall aesthetic of the neighborhood. At the very least, any decorations that require mounting should go through the Architectural Review Committee. This way, you can be sure that decorations are safely installed.
The holidays are a time for celebrations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean “the louder, the better.” That’s why your HOA board might want to consider rules about decorations with accompanying noise.
A lot of decorations make noise — from cackling witches to singing Santas. And, for the most part, these kinds of decorations are fine, provided they only make noise during the appropriate times.
You can impose restrictions on when residents can turn on noisy decorations, such as only during certain times of the day. It’s also a good idea not to allow anything that’s too loud or that can disrupt their neighbor’s quiet enjoyment.
Consistency and uniformity are important to many associations, which is why some even go as far as to restrict the color of decorations. For instance, an HOA might only allow white or yellow HOA Christmas lights. Again, this boils down to maintaining the aesthetic appeal of the community.
There are also HOAs that only allow a certain number of lights to be put up. This is to avoid decorations that are too bright and can, therefore, become a nuisance in the neighborhood.
Have you ever encountered a house that still has its holiday decorations up in March? That house probably doesn’t belong in a homeowners association.
Although associations try to be as accommodating as possible when it comes to decoration rules, one rule that a majority of HOAs have has to do with timing. Your HOA board should determine when residents can start decorating and how long they can leave the decorations up past the holidays.
The timing can vary from community to community. Usually, though, associations let homeowners decorate a month before Christmas and require removal two weeks after.
As with noisy decorations, you should also consider restricting what time of day residents can turn on their holiday lights. It’s generally a good idea to impose dark hours — keeping holiday lights off from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. This way, neighbors can get a good rest without complaining about bright lights peeking through their windows.
It goes without saying that HOA holiday decorations shouldn’t be in any way offensive or inappropriate, but you’d be surprised at how insensitive some people can be. To make sure everyone in the neighborhood feels comfortable, consider banning any disrespectful, derogatory, violent, or inappropriate decorations.
How to Ensure Compliance
Anyone who has ever lived in an HOA community knows that not all homeowners follow the rules. There will always be those who violate them, whether intentionally or otherwise. As a member of the board, though, you’d rather see everyone comply because it’s just easier (for everyone) that way. Here are some ways to make sure homeowners follow HOA holiday decoration rules:
1. Remind Residents of the Rules
Homeowners often need to be reminded of what they can and can’t do. To ensure compliance, send out a copy of the guidelines before residents start putting up their decorations.
If there are any changes to the rules, make sure to disseminate this information to all homeowners in a timely manner.
If residents aren’t sure about something, encourage them to ask the board for clarification. That way, they can avoid any penalties. You might also want to come up with a list of answers to frequently asked questions.
2. Schedule Inspections
Some homeowners break the rules because they think they can get away with it. One way to curb this is to schedule regular inspections. Let community members know when they can expect inspections to occur.
When conducting your inspections, make sure to remain fair and consistent. You could get into a lot of trouble for showing bias or favoritism.
3. Encourage Neighbor Reports
You can’t always be there to catch rulebreakers, so this is where neighbors can help out. Encourage residents to observe their neighbors’ HOA Christmas decorations and keep an eye out for violations.
A word of caution, though — this might incite a dispute between neighbors. As such, you should be ready to resolve any conflicts that may arise.
Don’t Let Decors Get in the Way of Holiday Merry Cheers
Although associations may want to limit the number of regulations surrounding HOA holiday decorations to give residents more freedom, most find it necessary to impose them to maintain consistency and order within the community. For homeowners, it’s always best to check and observe your association’s rules. This way, you can avoid getting into trouble and possibly even a years-long legal battle.
Juggling rules enforcement with other day-to-day tasks is just one of the things HOA boards find difficulty in. Let Homeland Neighborhood Management shoulder the burden for you. Call us today at (601) 326-7325 or contact us online for more information.