Ah….the holidays. Thoughts of peace, love and joyous occasions fill our thoughts. Our communities unite and happiness is proclaimed throughout the land. Unless of course you have a Board that doesn’t feel as warm and fuzzy about your holiday decorations as you do. If that’s the situation you find yourself in, just substitute the above words of peace, love and joy with lawsuits, fines and sabotage. Fights over religious displays are often the most contentious and nastiest of all the fights that occur at any of our associations.
Until a few years ago, the law was unclear in Florida regarding some religious displays and you even had some Boards actually demanding that owners remove mezuzahs and crosses from their front door, 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.
To be clear, a unit owner in a condo still don’t have a right to put a big picture of Santa and his elves on their front door……………….but can put up a small religious symbol on the door frame. Yes, even in America where we value religious freedom and free speech there is no right to stick Santa, Rudolph or Frosty the Snowman on the door to your condo unit. The statute only gives you a limited right to display your religious beliefs.
Luckily, not every Board cares one way or the other about what you put on your door and how big it is. Regardless, , if you exceed the 6x3x1 and a half inch size limits………you can be asked to remove your display.
At the moment, there is no law under the HOA statute that gives owners in an HOA the same right to display religious symbols as owners of condo units. It’s amazing but true.
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 to fill out forms and potentially appear before an architectural review committee. If you get your forms in quickly, you may get a hearing and be entitled to put up your Christmas display. Next year in 2013.