Turkey leftovers are gone, but the holiday season has just begun. As a property manager, you want to contribute to your residents’ well-being during this special time of the year. But then you might consider some issues: Should I decorate the community? How much is too much? How can I avoid potentially offending someone? What type of decorations should I allow residents to use outside their apartments? Sometimes, there’s a fine line between holiday decorations and violating fair housing laws.
Stay neutral! This might be the safest thing you could do. If you decorate common areas using winter-themed objects—such as snowflakes, evergreen garlands or sleighs—you will most certainly not bother or disturb anyone. As faiths, ethnic backgrounds, cultures and traditions are diverse across the U.S., HUD determined some years ago that Christmas trees, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or menorahs are secular statements, or not of a religious nature. Therefore, if you use these decorations, you will not be violating the Fair Housing Act in any way.
However, if you do decide to display religious decorations in common areas, make sure you include all the holidays celebrated this month. Of course, you should also pay attention to the size of these decorations: They should be equally represented and visible.
On the other hand, you should definitely avoid displaying anything overtly religious, such as crosses, bibles, nativity scenes, Stars of David, or “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” signs in public areas of the property.
And though you might do your share and avoid debates regarding winter decorations, some residents might still be offended by their neighbors’ display of religious objects. Verbal battles over decorations might appear out of the blue. The best way to avoid unwanted controversies is to have a formal policy governing holiday decor included in your set of community regulations. Develop consistent and flexible policies to avoid unintended consequences. Some of these rules might also help you keep the property neat.
Additionally, pay special attention to safety during this time of the year. Though flickering candles, blinking holiday lights and fragrant evergreens might beautifully embellish the hallway, they can pose deadly dangers when used improperly. Even electrical items can cause fires if they are imprudently used. According to a 2017 report from the National Fire Protection Association, one of every 32 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death. In one-quarter of the Christmas tree fires and 80 percent of the deaths, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.