As the weather cools and leaves begin to change color, festive holiday decorations will start to appear on the front steps of homes in your community associations. Although the end of the year brings many chances for residents in your associations to celebrate, it can also bring a few challenges — particularly when it comes to appropriate holiday decor.
What one resident in your community association regards as a festive holiday scene in their front yard may be perceived by their neighbors as a gaudy, distasteful eyesore.
Whether it’s a terrifying Halloween scene complete with ghouls and gore, or a Christmas display with so many lights that it can be seen for miles, what is considered tasteful and appropriate may vary widely from one homeowner to the next.
Although it’s tempting to step in the middle of a conflict, keep in mind that your role as a community association manager or board member is simply to make sure that your community association’s rules are enforced fairly and consistently.
Here are a few tips for community association managers and board members to avoid conflict, keep residents safe, and make sure that the holiday season is enjoyable for everyone:
- Start early and prepare. Before residents go all-out with the holiday decorations, consider reviewing your association’s rules and regulations. If any rule changes need to be put to a vote, make sure and allow time before the holidays for this process.
- Consider limiting the timeframe that decorations may be displayed, for example, no more than 1 month.
- Steer clear of any rules that limit decorations for some religious holidays but not others. For example, don’t limit allowable light display colors to red and green only. Be sure to consult legal counsel when in doubt.
- Avoid rules that cannot be objectively enforced. Prohibiting “scary” Halloween displays will be difficult to enforce, since what a family with small children considers “scary” might be very different than their horror film-loving neighbors. Set clear expectations upfront.
- If possible, include safety rules to prevent any mishaps. Decorations during the holidays sometimes involve lots of extension cords and electrical connections. Consider adding rules to help prevent electrical accidents or trip and fall hazards.
Keep in mind that the types of rules that your community associations may enforce will depend on what is permitted by its governing documents. Some associations may be able to enforce aesthetic regulations, others are limited to architectural review only.
To make sure that everyone in the community association is on the same page when it comes to holiday decor, send out a neighborhood email or newsletter that clearly lays out the rules. Encourage residents to talk to their neighbors when in doubt — this can go a long way toward preventing any conflicts.
If rules are clear and well communicated, then violations should be few and far between. But if a violation does arise, it’s important to let that person or family know exactly why that rule is in place. Have all documentation of the rule ready so that the homeowner understands that he or she is not being singled out.
Modern, mobile community association management software makes tracking and managing violations easier so that you and your homeowners can communicate efficiently, resolve the issue, and get back to your holiday celebrations faster.
With the proper rules in place, you can make sure that everyone in your association has the opportunity to celebrate their traditions and enjoy a conflict-free holiday season.