Early Christmas Display In HOA Community: Should Homeowners Be Fined?

admin | December 3, 2021

It is not uncommon for homeowners to put up an early Christmas display in HOA communities. What many of these homeowners don't know, though, is that associations typically have rules concerning holiday decoration schedules. And violating such a rule can result in a monetary fine.

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It is not uncommon for homeowners to put up an early Christmas display in HOA communities. What many of these homeowners don’t know, though, is that associations typically have rules concerning holiday decoration schedules. And violating such a rule can result in a monetary fine.


Multiple Cases of an Early Christmas Display in HOA

Homeowners usually have control over when holiday decorations go up. After all, they can do what they want with their private property. But, such is not the case for those living within HOA-run communities. One family in Florida learned this the hard way.


A Case That Gained National Attention

Michael Moffa, a member of the Westchase Community Association in Tampa, hired a professional company to put up his family’s Christmas lights this year. Due to scheduling conflicts, they ended up decorating his home with holiday lights almost three weeks before Thanksgiving. This, according to the HOA, was in violation of their rules. If Moffa does not take the lights down, he could face a fine of up to $1,000.

extend Christmas displayMoffa was motivated to decorate his house this year to bring joy to his family during these hard times, even if it was a little early. He attempted to negotiate with the HOA, saying he would keep the display up but leave the lights off until Thanksgiving — the official start of the association’s decorative season. The HOA denied this request.

Westchase Community Association, through its attorney, Jonathan Ellis, told the Washington Post that rules are in place to prevent residents from leaving their decorations all year-round. He also said that the association is open to changing the rules if enough residents voice their support.

The case has gained such widespread attention that even singer Mariah Carey chimed in. Carey, known as a holiday fixture for her song, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” sided with Moffat. In her tweet, she argued that, while she prefers to put up her own decorations after Thanksgiving, “there’s no regulating festiveness.”


Another Case in Texas

This is not the only case of a dispute concerning an early Christmas lights display between a resident and their HOA. A couple from Texas also recently received a letter from their association asking them to take down their holiday decorations. This time, though, many of their neighbors showed their support by putting up early Christmas decorations, too.


Is It Legal to Regulate Early Christmas Decorations in HOA?

Many homeowners wonder whether it is within their association’s authority to restrict holiday decorations. After all, if it’s your own private property, shouldn’t you call the shots?

Generally, it is legal for homeowners associations to regulate early Christmas decorations. Provided the governing documents permit it, an HOA can tell homeowners when they can put up decorations and when they should take them down. These communities enforce such rules in an effort to maintain the aesthetics of the neighborhood and protect property values.

Residents of a homeowners association should familiarize themselves with their community’s rules. Before buying a home in an HOA community, buyers are usually informed by the seller of the association’s existence. Buyers also receive a copy of the association’s governing documents, including its operating rules. If you don’t like having to abide by these rules, you should think twice before purchasing the home.

As a homeowner, you should also make it a habit to attend HOA meetings. This is where boards discuss and vote on rules that will apply to the entire community. If you don’t like a rule, voice your opinion. On the other side of the coin, HOA boards also have a responsibility to inform residents of any changes or additions to the rules.


Can Homeowners Associations Issue Fines?

Most homeowners associations have the ability to issue fines when a resident violates the rules. This includes rules concerning an early Christmas display in HOA communities. A $100 fine per day (up to $1,000 in total), as seen in the Florida case, is not unusual. The HOA board, though, should make sure state laws and the governing documents provide this authority.

Moreover, HOA boards must ensure they enforce the rules consistently. If the board fines one resident for putting up their decorations early but allows another, such rules may not be enforceable. Worse yet, the board may be found liable for discrimination.


Can You Refuse to Join an HOA?

While there are a few HOAs with voluntary membership, a majority are mandatory. When people buy a home in an HOA-operated community,  they automatically become members of that association. That means they will have to adhere to the association’s rules, including any rules on holiday decorations.

HOA living is not for everyone. As such, it is imperative for homebuyers to find out everything they can about a community before buying into it.


What Homeowners Can Do About the Rules

Although the HOA board enacts and enforces the rules, homeowners are not entirely powerless. If homeowners want to extend Christmas display timeframes in the community, start by gaining support from neighbors. See if anyone else shares the same sentiments.

early Christmas decorations in HOAThen, homeowners can take the concern to the HOA board. Let the HOA BOD know that there are enough people in the community who want to amend the rule on holiday decorations. HOA boards are also members of the community and care about the association’s welfare, they will listen to the concerns of homeowners.


It’s a Balancing Act

An early Christmas display in HOA may not seem like a big deal from an outsider’s perspective. In fact, some may even scoff at the idea of regulating something as trivial as holiday decorations. But, it is important for an HOA to maintain curb appeal and preserve property values. And such associations accomplish this by establishing rules that encourage uniformity.

Still, that does not mean HOA boards should enforce rules blindly. If the association’s residents feel strongly about an issue, it is wise to listen to them and take their opinions into account before making a decision.

Managing an entire community association is not always an easy job. Get professional help today by hiring the best HOA management company in your area. Start your search using our comprehensive online directory.



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