What Can a Homeowners’ Association Do to Keep Holiday Decorations from Staying Up All Year?
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The holiday season is a time of celebration. Homeowners often take part in the celebration by decorating their homes with a variety of decorations and lights to suit the season. However, these holiday decorations are often left out long after the season ends. This article will provide an overview of what a homeowners association can do to prevent these decorations from staying up all year without limiting the festivities.
The board of directors of a homeowners’ association has a fiduciary duty to homeowners to maintain the community to the level that homeowners expected when they purchased homes within the association. Part of this duty entails regulating Christmas and other holiday decorations to maintain the aesthetics of the community.
While the regulation of this activity is sometimes covered in the association documents, often decoration regulations are left to the board of directors to tackle. Under Florida law, the board of directors has the authority to enact reasonable rules and regulations within the community. Ch 720 Fla. Stat., discussed in depth below, is an outline of the steps that a homeowners’ association board of directors should take to carry out this responsibility.
What Steps Should a Board of Directors Take?
There are several tools and steps that an association board of directors should take to ensure they are properly upholding their duty to the association. The steps that a board of directors should take to prepare for the holiday season include the following:
Review the Association Documents
First, the board should review the association documents. Regulations regarding Christmas lights and holiday decorations are often included in a homeowners’ association’s documents. The board should review the declaration, articles, current bylaws, and current rules and regulations. This will provide the board with an understanding of what, if any the current regulations of the association are. This will allow the board to determine whether any changes need to be made, if a new rule needs to be adopted, or if there is a current rule that needs to be enforced.
Adopt a Rule or Regulation
A homeowners’ association may adopt reasonable rules and regulations regarding the community and common areas. This authority is pursuant to Ch. 720, Fla. Stat. and is often expanded upon within the association’s declaration or bylaws. An association can utilize this authority to adopt rules regarding holiday decorations. Associations often use a time frame related to the specific holiday for their rules, which could take different forms based upon the holiday. For example, an association could limit the time Christmas lights and decorations are set up to a period running 30 days before and 30 days after Christmas.
In adopting a new rule regarding decorations, an association should be careful not to rule heavy handedly and quash the holiday spirit. In developing a new rule or changes to current rules, the board must ensure the rules are reasonable and do not give an appearance of discrimination or favoring any specific religion. The board should consider the time frame the decorations are set up, potential disturbances that certain decorations (such as noise-emitting) pose to homeowners and potential safety hazards, among others when developing or changing rules surrounding holiday decorations.
Enforce the New or Existing Holiday Decoration Rule
Lastly, enforcement is key. These rules, whether new or existing, do no good to either the association or community if they are not enforced. It is imperative to the board’s fiduciary duty to the association that it enforce the rules put in place for the benefit of the community. In addition, failure to enforce such rules may forfeit a successive board’s ability to enforce the rule moving forward.
Holiday decorations add to the celebration but sometimes outstay their welcome. Homeowners associations are responsible for keeping the community up to date with the seasons. For assistance setting up rules and regulations, amending community documents, or enforcing rules and covenants, contact Jimerson Birr’s experienced Community Associations attorneys.