With respect to the common areas, it is important to remember that condominium and homeowner associations are made up of individuals with very diverse backgrounds and beliefs and this diversity must be considered and respected when considering holiday decorations. Moreover, the Fair Housing Act and other fair housing laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion. While there is certainly nothing wrong with decorating during the holiday season, associations need to be mindful that the holiday displays do not give the impression that the community favors one religion over another. Therefore, when decorating the common areas, the association should consider using holiday decorations that tend not to pertain to a specific religious faith. If an association decides to exhibit religious symbols such as nativity scenes or menorahs in a common area, it should give equal treatment to all other religious affiliations.
The Fair Housing Act restrictions do not apply to exterior religious displays by private homeowners. However, your association's governing documents may prohibit holiday decorations altogether. If your association does ban holiday decorations, it is essential that all decorative displays be prohibited. In other words, you should not permit the display of holiday decorations for one holiday and then prohibit the display of decorations for other holidays.
While holiday decorations may be permitted by your association's governing documents, we recommend that associations develop and adopt reasonable rules which address size, illumination and time restrictions. Typical holiday decoration rules should address how soon before a holiday such decorations may be displayed and how long after the end of the holiday the decorations must be removed -- otherwise, the association may be faced with holiday lights in the summer. The size or total square footage of decorations should also be addressed. In the event that the association does have rules and regulations in place, it should ensure that any holiday decorations follows the association's rules and regulations, receives the approval of the necessary committee, causes no damage to the common elements and does not create a safety hazard.
Happy Holidays from Marcus & Hoffman!