Now that Thanksgiving is over, there’s a race to get those Christmas decorations up. It’s no longer too early to start as recently suggested by one HOA. Twinkle the lights, plug-in the blow-ups, put up the signs, sprinkle the lawn with fake snow, place reindeer in the driveway and most of all, get in the holiday spirit. Your house looks great! Just one thing…….you’ve gone too far and your Board says it all has to come down.
Freedom of religious expression you say? Well, the law in Florida regarding religious displays in your condominium at least is clear. It was passed a few years ago to combat boards who wanted owners to remove mezuzahs and crosses from their front doors, because these Boards claimed that they wanted all doors in the community to look uniform. Then………….based on a law that first went into effect in Illinois, the Florida Legislature passed a condo law that states: An association may not refuse the request of a unit owner for a reasonable accommodation for the attachment on the mantel or frame of the door of the unit owner of a religious object not to exceed 3 inches wide, 6 inches high, and 1.5 inches deep.
If you look at the law carefully, it allows you to display a religious symbol on the frame or mantle of the door only; not on the actual door itself. Obviously, it also limits the size of what you can actually display. That’s all it allows. A unit owner in a condo still does not have a right to put a big picture of Santa and his elves on their front door, only a small religious symbol on the door frame or mantle.
That’s more rights than HOA owners have though. At the moment, there is no law under the HOA statute that gives owners in an HOA the same right to display religious symbols. Owners living in an HOA need to look at their own declaration of covenants and rules and regulations to find out what they can and cannot do in their own community as far as holiday decorations go. Be prepared possibly to fill out forms and potentially appear before an architectural review committee.
What’s your take? Should there be restrictions on displaying religious symbols in your condo or HOA? Should exceptions be made during certain holidays? Can the exceptions wind up swallowing the rule? Any horror stories out there of owners being told to take down Santa or Rudolph? Did you? Are Scrooges alive and well in our Florida community associations or is the usual bickering put on hold during the holiday season?