By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
I can remember the neighborhood of my childhood at Christmastime. Almost every house on my block was decorated with colored lights, wreaths, candles in the windows, light-up Santa and snowman figures, and Nativity scenes. Neighbors who celebrated Hanukkah would place a Menorah in one of their windows, and maybe some blue lights outside.
The display was especially magical at night, and I can recall taking evening walks, and even caroling with friends on occasion, enjoying the sparkling lights.
Downtown row houses (modern versions are called townhouses) were equally decked out in holiday splendor. My grandparents lived in an apartment building, but I can certainly remember a wreath hanging on their door for Christmas.
Nobody complained. There were certainly no rules against holiday decorating.
What the heck happened?
Now a senior living apartment management company in North Carolina is cracking down on decorating doors, porches, and patios. The reason? Apparently a few residents posted ‘offensive messages’ on their doors.
Of course, the management company offers no explanation as to the nature of those offensive messages.
Nevertheless, instead of dealing directly with the obnoxious behavior of a few tenants, management has decided to punish everyone, forbidding any public display of holiday cheer.
Reminds me of an elementary school teacher that used to make the entire class write “I will not talk in class” one hundred times, because two classmates were being disruptive. At the early age of 7 or 8, I realized that sometimes, a person with authority can be blatantly unreasonable and unfair. Ok, even downright mean.
I will concede that, technically, tenant leases forbid any display of personal items on doors, porches or patios. But… for the past 5 years, holiday decoration was not only permitted but encouraged.
Now, all of a sudden, any non-approved display of holiday decor gives the management company the right to terminate – or at least not renew – a lease.
Christmas, holiday decorations banned at senior living community
Wednesday, December 6th 2017, 6:51 pm EST
Thursday, December 7th 2017, 6:10 am EST
By: Ben Smart, General Assignment Reporter
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) –
Residents at Lake Ridge Commons, a senior living community in Wilmington, are banned from displaying any personal items on their doors, porches, and patios this holiday season.
“This includes, but is not limited to door decorations, wreaths, signs, etc.,” property managers wrote to residents in a reminder notice distributed Dec. 1. “Please remove immediately all personal items from entry doors.”
According to property management, the controversy started earlier this year when residents posted “offensive and defensive messages” on their doors to other residents and management.
Ann Hanson, president of Excel Property Management, said there was no choice but to ban all items, including holiday wreaths, on doors to preserve the peace.
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Now, the reader might think, “well, tenants do not own their homes. But homeowners don’t have to worry about that kind of stuff.”
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Many condominium and homeowners’ associations have specific rules about any exterior decor, including holiday wreaths, lights, and more. When to put them up and when they have to be taken down. What kind of decorations are allowed, and what kind are not. For instance, maybe the rules say the owner can only use non-blinking white lights. And, in some cases, indoor decorating only – no exterior decor allowed.
Religious items can be regarded as especially controversial in common interest housing communities, whether it’s a saintly figurine or a Mezuzah. That’s why some state lawmakers continue their work to enact laws to permit religious expression by public display of symbols.
Unlike apartment housing, there’s no lease to terminate in a homeowners’ or condominium association. Instead, the association often imposes monetary fines for disobeying the rules. And watch out for those fines, because, if unpaid, the homeowner can quickly rack up hundreds or even thousands of dollars in late fees, interest, and attorney fees.
If the owner still refuses to pay up, the association’s usual procedure is to apply a regular assessment payment (maintenance fees or dues) to the unpaid fees and fines, thereby giving the association the legal right to place a lien on the property for unpaid assessments!
Depending on state laws, if an HOA lien remains unpaid, the association can proceed to garnish wages to collect the debt, collect rent from the owner’s tenant, or sell the property at a foreclosure auction.
Who knew that putting up a Christmas wreath or hanging holiday lights could ever result in such draconian punishment?
Kinda takes the joy right out of the season.
Huntsville Condo HOA fines resident for having Christmas decorations
POSTED 7:41 PM, DECEMBER 8, 2017, BY AARON CANTRELL, UPDATED AT 11:59AM, DECEMBER 9, 2017
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Steven Williams’s Christmas decorations are costing him money every day. “The “bylaws,” say you get fined a $50 fine and if you wait 30 days later, you can get a late fee and that’s it. The fine as it reads that she gave me is $50 and each day is an individual account,” Williams explained.
Williams said this means every day he goes without paying the fee to the Homeowners Association he owes $50. Currently, he owes $200. “She can pry that money out of my cold dead hands,” Williams said.
The “she” Williams is referring to is Stepping Stone Condominium’s HOA President and CEO Ethel Lee. He believes she’s only fining him for the decorations because he was trying to run as the new HOA President.
He said he always decorates and this is the first time he has been fined. “This is mild, usually there are a lot more lights in the window and more wreaths,” Williams said.
According to the “bylaws,” it does state quote “A unit owners shall not cause or permit anything to be hung or displayed on the outside of the windows, walls, or doors.”
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