D.B. from Hartford County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I am concerned about an issue in my HOA. Each year, during the holidays, all homeowners are allowed to decorate their homes in accordance with our HOA rules. This is fine with me. However, the HOA also decorates the exterior common street lights with Christmas ornaments. No other religion is represented. While it is not unattractive, it is also not in keeping with my religion. Early on I brought this issue to the Board, suggesting they use no association decorations and simply allow homeowners to decorate as they see fit, in accordance with our guidelines. I was told that there was “nothing religious about red/white/green decorations during the holiday time and they were as American as the American Flag”! Since then, we’ve recently had a change in our Association leadership. I’d like to address this concern again – but coming prepared with knowledge of HOA/discriminatory law.
Can you help me in this regard? Or point me in the right direction to get this information? I’ve reviewed our condo docs – which I can provide. I see no reference to HOA decorating (only individual homeowners). Thank you in advance for your help. I look forward to your response.
Mister Condo replies:
D.B., you raise some valid points and concerns. Alas, as you may know, I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice in my column. As a practical piece of advice, I would offer that there are simply far too many religions to take into consideration when an HOA makes any policy decisions regarding its own Holiday decorations. I do not know of any HOA governing documents that address the overall HOA decorating policy; regulating homes within the HOA is standard practice. The HOA Board of Directors are in control of the HOA’s common elements and can basically do as they see fit as long as they aren’t violating any federal, state, or local laws. Whether they choose to recognize the holidays with traditional Christmas decorations or other non-Christian decorations is likely up to them. As a member of the association you can most certainly present your case but I cannot direct you to any laws or resources that would force them to accept your recommendations. Of course, all change begins with an idea and someone questioning quo. Perhaps you will find a more receptive audience this time around. Good luck!