The holiday season is upon us and no holiday season is complete without holiday decorations. However, opinions vary as to what is tasteful and appropriate holiday decoration. While many view holiday decorations as an expression of the holiday spirit, over-done displays can be an eye-sore or create traffic problems. Of particular concern in some communities are those owners who fail to remove their decorations far into the year.
In response, many community associations adopt rules regulating outdoor decorations. While community associations have the authority to implement reasonable rules regulating outdoor displays, the enforcement of these rules may often be controversial. If a community feels restrictions on holiday decoration are necessary, reasonable rules can be adopted regulating when decorations can be erected, when they must be removed, or requiring that lights be turned off by a certain hour.
As with any Board adopted rule, restricting holiday decoration may not be arbitrary or capricious. The rule must be reasonably related to the health, safety and welfare of the members. If the association cannot show that the rules furthers this purpose, a court might find the rule unreasonable and unenforceable. One commonly cited purpose – especially in condominiums – is the risk of fire or the increase in rate of fire insurance on any buildings, or on property therein. As many of the areas owners seek to decorate in a condominium constitute common elements, a condominium association has near absolute authority with regard to these areas.
On the other hand, placing religious objects on the mantel or frame of a condominium unit door is protected by Florida Statute. Section 718.113(6) provides “an association may not refuse the request of a unit owner for a reasonable accommodation for the attachment on the mantel or frame of the door of the unit owner of a religious object not to exceed 3 inches wide, 6 inches high and 1.5 inches deep.” This means that an owner may hang a mezuzah or a cross on the frame of the door.
While regulating these issues is an appropriate function of a community association, communities should also take into consideration the desires of its members when regulating holiday decorations.