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“’Tis beginning to look a lot like Christmas……

…and it was just Halloween this past weekend!  But this is not the time for a rant about whether this is the time for the Christmas holiday to be upon us.  Rather, I thought it might be helpful to address what seems to be an eternal question for the apartment industry each year…how much Christmas is “too much” Christmas at your community from a fair housing standpoint?   I am often asked “Can we say Merry Christmas?” or “Can we put a Christmas tree up in the lobby?”.  Way back in 1995, HUD issued a memo about which says that the “use of secularized terms or symbols relating to religious holidays such as Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, or St. Valentine’s images, or phrases such as “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Easter”, or the like does not constitute a violation of the [Fair Housing] Act.”  While that is a memo about advertising, I think it a logical hop, skip and jump to say that yes, you can say “Merry Christmas” to folks who come to your community.  As to that Christmas tree in the lobby, the answer to that is “yes” as well.  Just remember – no crèche with the Baby Jesus.  And I have it on good authority that the courts have determined a number of other holiday symbols to be generic or commercial in nature:  colored lights, Kwanza logs, dreidels, and even angels. So use them if you wish.  While I am certainly no angel, I hope that this bit of information has been helpful.  And since I may not have the opportunity to say it when the time is right:  Merry Christmas!

 

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Thanks for the good info!

  Barbara Savona
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Great post Nadeen! And you are certainly an angel in my book!
Merry Christmas to you too!

  Patty MorganSeager
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I still feel that this is a touchy area for our industry. When your working within diverse markets, people of other ethnicity and other religious groups may back away from housing communities that advertise such religious events by feeling that it is the housing providers personal preference, or that the comminuty is univiting or "not of their culture" therefore they would seek housing oppotunites elsewhere in fear of being discriminated against. We advertise "Holiday Season" and say "happy holidays" - It's good to know that HUD does not feel that it is a violation of the fair housing act to say Merry Christmas or Happy Easter, but in providing an equal housing opportunity, we train our team to avoid such speccifics and stick to general comments and advertising. Thoughts?

  Jennifer Schendel
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Jennifer, of course I have thoughts and an opinion - I always do (just ask my husband!). I very much understand where you are coming from, and probably would be as cautious as you on this issue as well. That being said, my job is to share info so that people know what the current parameters are in fair housing. Once those parameters are set, then a company/owner needs to assess their own tolerance for risk and create their policies accordingly. And this philosophy does not only apply to the issue of seasonal greetings. I can think of others. For example, some companies/owners will not show people in their advertising because even though they may do that, doing it wrong can be a costly mistake. Some companies will allow their leasing folks to decline to take prospects on the tour if the leasing folks are worried about imminent safety; others will require the tour take place "no matter what". I see my role as an educator on fair housing to better assist companies/owners in making informed business decisions (which is something which you have done). Thank you for commenting on my post!

  Green Nadeen

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