Holiday Decorating Keeping it Festive, Tasteful, and Fair

Since before recorded history, people have celebrated events, often decorating homes and public spaces to mark this or that special day or event. We still love to adorn our doors, windows, and other areas with festive décor at different times of year, but in a modern, densely-populated setting like a co-op, condo or HOA, the diversity of faiths, ethnic backgrounds and traditions can make knowing what to display and how to display it more complicated than just hanging a wreath on the door or placing some poinsettias in the lobby. Whether your community is a high-rise tower in the heart of a major city, or a sprawling suburban development, it’s important for boards to approach holiday decorating like they approach any other element of governance; with fairness, consistency, and community well-being firmly in mind.

There are many arguments for and against allowing holiday decorations; the former including the cohesive and morale-boosting effect of decorating as a community activity, and the latter including the notion that blinking lights can be a nuisance, that haphazard or ostentatious decorations negatively impact the overall ‘curb appeal’ of the community, and that what’s decorative to some may be offensive to others. It’s the job of a community’s board of directors to balance these concerns and decide upon a neighborly approach to holiday decorating.  

Keeping Holidays Happy

In New Jersey, there are no statewide rulings about how much is too much, how religious is too religious and how long is too long to keep up those holiday lights. So it all must be decided and regulated by cooperative and condominium boards. In an effort to keep everyone happy, many of the management companies suggest that boards have formal decorating policies related to holiday décor. Despite the wisdom of putting guidelines in writing, many buildings and associations have no formal policy governing holiday décor. Others have rules strictly forbidding the display of any holiday-related items outside of individual units, says Josh Koppel, president of H.S.C. Management Corp., based in Yonkers, New York. 

“In their bylaws, they say you’re not allowed decorate the common areas – and that includes on the outside of apartment doors,” Koppel says, noting that some make exceptions. “I have buildings that do decorate in the lobby [for] Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa.”

But just because many buildings don’t have such a policy doesn’t mean they can’t draft one, or that there aren’t some generally accepted etiquette points for holiday decorating in multifamily buildings. 

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