Always check with your management company and your state laws for additional information. Here are the things which I have when Fair Housing and Holidays come up:
- HUD has determined that Christmas trees, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and other such decorations are not of a religious nature. The use of these decorations is, therefore, not a violation of the Fair Housing Act, no matter how prevalent they are.
- HUD has also determined that a menorah - the Hanukkah candelabra - is not a religious decoration.
- Nativity scenes, crosses, bibles, "happy birthday Jesus" signs, Stars of David, are all definitely religious in nature rather than secular, and should be avoided in public areas of a housing facility.
- The appearance of a property to the public is the responsibility of management. If the residents decorate the lobby and front door, therefore, management should exert some control over the type of decorations used.
- If decorations are permitted by management to be placed on an individual resident's door, however, the resident should be able to choose the decorations to use, as long as those decorations are within management's rules. In other words, the concerns management should appropriately have over holiday decorations in common areas and the office do not apply to residents' homes.
Other Fair Housing Do's and Don'ts
Fair Housing Dos and Don'ts for Holidays
Many associations throw a party for members or decorate the community during the winter holiday season. If you do this, make sure you are not giving the impression that the association favors one religious holiday over another. If you do create that impression, you could open the association to a claim of discrimination based on religion. This is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Here are six dos and don’ts to help get you through the holiday season without violating fair housing laws:
DON’T refer to a particular religions’ holiday, either through words or symbols. By not referring to particular religions’ holiday, you are less likely to offend a member who celebrates another holiday. You will also be less likely to have to accommodate a member’s request to represent another holiday in the decorating process.
DO use nonreligious decorations. Put up a “Happy Holidays” sign rather than a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukah” sign. Put up a snowman instead of a Christmas tree. If you plan on putting up a tree, call it a holiday tree and allow the members to decorate it with items that represent their religious beliefs and winter activities they enjoy.
DO give all religions equal representations if you use religious decorations. Include decorations for all the holidays celebrated in that month and make sure that the decorations are of comparable size and visibility.
DO throw holiday parties or winter celebrations. This helps bring the community together without leaving out members with different religious beliefs.
DO offer equal access to all religions when reserving the clubhouse or other facilities. It is okay to allow the clubhouse to be used for a member’s religious holiday party, as long as it is made available for all such parties. In addition, make sure that the clubhouse is rented on a first-come, first-served basis, not based on whether the date is more appropriate for a particular holiday.
DON’T distribute religious cards or gifts. It is okay to give holiday cards to members or staff during the holiday season, as long as they are not religious in nature. In addition, holiday wishes in the association newsletter should either state every holiday or none at all. “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” will do.