I.S. from Fairfield County, Connecticut writes:
I read a newspaper story about a woman in Stratford being denied the right to display a mezuzah on her doorway at her condo. Why would a condo have a problem with someone displaying something as small as a mezuzah? Isn’t that just being petty?
Mister Condo replies:
I.S., petty or not, this story made newspaper headlines, TV news, and had heavy exposure on the internet in blogs and other websites. Here’s why?
Every common interest community has an elected Board of Directors. By and large, these are very well-meaning individuals who volunteer their time and talents to govern the community in accordance with its declaration, covenant, and/or by-laws. In addition to those rules local, state, and federal laws must also be observed. Even the best educated volunteers can find themselves in over their heads when it comes to enforcing every provision.
If an association’s rules dictate that unit owners can decorate their doors in whatever manner they see fit then no one is going to have a problem with a decorated door. If those same rules state that doorways are common elements and that they cannot be decorated then it is understandable that when someone violates that rule, the Board may feel it needs to take action.
Here’s where it can be a little tricky. All citizens have rights that are protected by rules beyond those of the association. Enforcing the rules of the association is the charge of the Board. They were elected to do so by a majority of unit owners. However, they are volunteers and not necessarily experienced in all areas of local, state, and federal law. I can only assume this Board had the best intentions when they initially chose to enforce the rule that bans decorating a common element like a doorway. Unfortunately, items of a purely cultural, or in this case, religious nature, are often protected by rules that supersede the rules of the association.
Here’s the good news! Once the Board learned of these rules, they quickly reversed themselves and apologized! The unit owner gets to display her mezuzah and everyone who followed the story learned that there is plenty of room for a happy ending once cooler heads prevail. I am proud of the homeowner for standing up for her rights and I am proud of the Board for taking action to correct itself once the facts were learned. I love a happy ending, don’t you?