Happy Holidays! Holiday Decorating Etiquette

Holiday decorations are an easy way for an association to spread some seasonal cheer and add a cozy, communal vibe to the neighborhood. But what was once a practice limited to a couple of lights, ornaments and a menorah or two has migrated toward a decorating empire complete with 10-foot tall blow-up Santas, multicolored lights that pulse and twinkle and even moving reindeer and elves, synchronized to holiday music.

While not all building communities or associations choose to outfit their buildings with such elaborate décor (or want the supersized energy bill that comes along with it), navigating the community decorating scene can be tricky at times. For co-op and condo residents’ potential arguments about religious decorations can make the season a lot less festive.

This holiday, the biggest of them all, tend to create the most fuss among condo residents as childhood memories and religious intentions collide with the 'rules.' So before you hang those stockings and plug in those lights you may want to check house rules and bylaws first.

Decorating 101

Whether it’s with simple lights or elaborate displays, each community will vary in regards to the quantity of decorations it allows. There are associations that prefer modest touches and others that have full-on contests between neighbors. Regardless of the decorating preferences, guidelines can be found, in most cases, in the governing documents.

“Some buildings have decorating policies and some don’t,” says Mindy H. Stern of Schoeman Updike Kaufman Stern & Ascher LLP in New York City. “Sometimes the policies are written and sometimes they are informal. It’s very common for buildings over the years to have developed policies whether they have them in writing or not. There are policies that relate to the board-sponsored decorations in common areas of the building and decorations that are installed by shareholders or unit owners on their own doors. For example, some will just flat out prohibit unit owners and shareholders from decorating their own doors; others will have policies they want people to follow. “

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