Time of year for HOAs to crack down on holiday decorations

As Halloween decorations emerge, homeowner’s associations are back to patrolling displays. See this example in Naperville:

After neighbors complained to the Ashbury Homeowners Association board about the traffic and noise created by the celebrated house decorations, the group installed rules that thwarted Thomas’ plans.

“I am disappointed,” said Thomas, who has lived in the 1100 block of Conan Doyle Road in south Naperville for 21 years and has decorated his house for the past 18 years. “For a lot of people, the house has become a tradition and it is something people look forward to.”

Thomas’ display has grown over the years, and now includes over 2,000 pieces with lights and synchronized music. Visitors to the cul-de-sac have also grown — he estimates about 8,000 people visited last year alone — which is why neighbors raised concerns about traffic and safety with the Ashbury Homeowners Association board.

The board notified neighbors via its October newsletter that a “Holiday Decorations Rule” was voted on and passed at its Sept. 21 board meeting. The rule limits a person’s decorations to 50 percent of the yard, excluding lights, and restricts the display to 30 days before and after the holiday.

I can see both sides to this story. The homeowner may be asking why the association is now instituting these rules. He has had displays for years; why now? The HOA might say that the displays keep growing and attracting thousands of people disrupts the neighborhood. On the other side, suburban residents tend to prefer quiet streets and neighbors that don’t draw negative attention to themselves (even if they are raising some money for charity). The owner could respond that these are just temporary decorations. The final guidelines may be reasonable: a homeowner could still do a lot with 50 percent of their yard and thirty days before and after provides around 60 days for the displays.

To avoid issues such as these, wouldn’t homeowners associations be better off having such guidelines on their books from the beginning or before such situations arise where single owners feel like they are being singled out? Associations are often pilloried for having silly rules on their books but they can help cut off situations such as these.

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