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Legal for an HOA to Restrict Holiday Decorations?

For many homeowners, November means it's time to start putting up holiday decorations both inside and outside their homes.

But owners of houses or condos that are members of a homeowners association might want to think twice before decking the outside of their hall with boughs of holly. HOA rules may limit, or in some circumstances prohibit certain kinds of holiday decorations.

Is it legal for an HOA to limit a member's ability to decorate his or her home for the holidays?

Homeowners Association Rules

The goal of homeowners association rules are to regulate activities that may affect the neighborhood. An HOA's rules are typically set forth in what is known as a homeowner's covenants, codes, and restrictions (CC&R). These rules may include regulations controlling:

  • Number of pets allowed;
  • Exterior paint colors;
  • Landscaping;
  • Mailboxes;
  • Sheds and other outbuildings; and
  • Swing sets, basketball hoops, children's play structures.

Along these same lines, CC&Rs may also limit your choices for holiday decorations. Owners agreed to be bound by the CC&Rs when they acquired the property, meaning that an owner who disputes a rule included in his or her CC&R may have to go to court in order to get the rule changed.

What Can You Do?

If your HOA rules limit holiday decorations, the National Association of Realtors has a few tips. First, consider speaking with your neighbors. It's possible that association rules may not be strictly enforced during the holidays. You should also consider taking your case in front of the homeowners association board, asking for an amendment to the rules or that an exception be made for holiday decorations.

If you decide to violate the rules in your CC&Rs and decorate your house for the holidays, nothing may actually happen, as enforcement of HOA rules vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood. You may receive a warning or be issued a fine by your HOA. In instances of continued or unresolved violations, legal action may be taken to enforce the CC&Rs.

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