PRACTICING YOUR RELIGION: ARE THERE LIMITS IN YOUR COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION?

What a great time of year.  The best actually.  Everyone seems to be in the holiday spirit. You drive down the streets and people have beautifully decorated their homes.  But what about the people that live in condos and HOAs?  Are they allowed to do the same?

In regard to condominiums, Florida Statute 718.113(6) 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. 

            So, in a condominium, unit owners get the right to have a whopping 3 x 6 inch religious display on their door at holiday time.  Anything bigger than that and the Board can say take it down because you’re violating the statute.  In an HOA, the statute makes no mention about the right to have a religious display.  Why?  Because it’s just another example of simply not enough caring and thought going into the making of HOA laws.

If you think that the Board’s power is limited solely to preventing religious displays on the exterior of your condominium unit or the exterior of your home, think again.  The Board can even decide what religious displays are allowed on the common areas.

In Tower Forty-One Association v. Levitt¸ 426 So.2d 1290 (3rd DCA, 1983) the appeals court upheld a ruling by the trial court which agreed with a condominium association that prohibited an owner from displaying a Succoh on a common element.  In that case, the bylaws of the association stated that “No industry, business, trade, occupation or profession of any kind, commercial, religious, educational, or otherwise, shall be conducted, maintained, or permitted on any part of the property or in any condominium parcel.” The court simply prevented the condominium association from violating its own documents.

In Neuman v. Grandview at Emerald Hills, Inc., 861 So.2d 494 (4th DCA, 2003) the condominium association passed a rule banning the use of the common elements for religious services.  In fact, the association only did so after 70% of the owners voted in favor of such a rule.  Two unit owners challenged the rule in court, taking the position that their constitutional rights were being violated as was Florida Statute 718.123 which precludes condominium rules from unreasonably restricting a unit owner’s right to peaceably assemble.  Here is what else the court said:

It appears to us that inherent in the condominium concept is the principle that to promote the health, happiness, and peace of mind of the majority of the unit owners since they are living in such close proximity and using facilities in common, each unit owner must give up a certain degree of freedom of choice which he might otherwise enjoy in separate, privately owned property. Condominium unit owners comprise a little democratic sub society of necessity more restrictive as it pertains to use of condominium property than may be existent outside the condominium organization.

            The court found the rule prohibiting religious services in the common areas to be reasonable and sided with the association.

As we head into the holidays and the final two weeks of the year, eat, drink and be merry.  And remember, despite your passion and zeal to display your pride in your religion, you may have to somewhat keep it in check.  At this time of year, we take off two weeks from the blog and will resume January 7th, 2019.  In the interim, I wish all of you and your families a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

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