The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


December 23, 2013

Real estate Q&A: HOA says holiday decorations up too early

QUESTION: I just received a fine from our homeowner’s association because I decorated my house for the holidays the week before Thanksgiving, which apparently is too early. Do I need to pay this?


Q: Code enforcement stopped by our home yesterday saying that our Christmas decorations are excessive and we’re using unsafe wiring. They’re telling me that we have to take down some decorations or face fines. Is this for real?


ANSWER: Yes and yes. In buying a home in a community association, you agree to follow your community’s rules. Restrictions placed on decorating your home for the holidays are no different than the rules that may be in place regarding the paint colors you can use for the outside of the home.

You and your neighbors have agreed to certain standards for the common enjoyment of the neighborhood. When purchasing a home in a planned community, make sure that you can live with the restrictions. If you want to change the holiday decoration rules, for instance, get together with a group of your like-minded neighbors and attend an association meeting well in advance of the holidays.

Speak to your leadership about the restrictions and the possibility of amending the rules to allow you to put up decorations closer to Thanksgiving Day. If the rules in your community have restrictions that you have violated, you will have to pay the fine.

As for the code enforcement question, religious holiday decorations are a form of protected speech. But the government may place restrictions on those decorations to comply with health and safety standards. So while your city can stop you from overloading your electrical system, or using unsafe decorations, it can’t stop you from safely celebrating the holidays.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program. Send him questions online at or follow him on Twitter GarySingerLaw.

The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Text Only
  • Fancy management systems won’t fix bad managers

    In violation of my long-standing “only watch TV” rule, I read an article recently about how Zappos is adopting a management structure known as holacracy.

    July 30, 2014

  • Your Office Coach: Supervisor-employee boundaries must be honored

    QUESTION: Two weeks ago, my husband “Barry“ unexpectedly came home from work with a large flat-screen television. He explained that one of his employees gave it to him as repayment for a loan. I was shocked, because I had no idea that Barry was lending people money.

    July 29, 2014

  • Silly mistakes that sink job applicants

    Some employers won’t care - or won’t catch them - but mistakes in word usage can put your application in the reject pile.

    July 29, 2014

  • Watercooler: Raised to the roof

    Q: Over 15 years, I have worked my way up the corporate ladder with the same organization. I have been given a raise every year and excellent reviews, as well as several promotions.

    July 25, 2014

  • Career Coach Q&A: job search follow-up; introverts as leaders

    Starting a business:

    Q: I have a stable job that I don't hate, but I have an idea for starting my own business.

    July 25, 2014

  • How to become a leader

    QUESTION: I’ve just been promoted into a leadership role. I’m excited, but also kind of overwhelmed. What do I need to do to be good at my new job?

    July 24, 2014

  • Balancing Act: How much is your time worth? Consider outsourcing some tasks

    Todd Paton has a booming business getting customers noticed on the Web. One tool he uses is generating online press releases to build brand awareness and create links that will send traffic to a customer’s website. But Paton, owner of Paton Internet Marketing, acknowledges that writing the releases is not his strong suit. Rather than spend his time doing it, he hires out the task.

    July 23, 2014

  • The Color of Money: No easy way to get out of debt

    Many people who are deeply in debt are desperate for a quick fix. They ask the question: What can I do to get out of debt?

    July 21, 2014

  • Watercooler: When to speak up if you see problems down the line

    Q: Our organization has hired a new director. I am one of a number of division heads; above us, there's the associate director, and above him is the director. The associate director is feared and disliked for his duplicity and dictatorial nature, though few have come forward because of his vindictiveness.

    July 18, 2014

  • Career Coach: Bringing a purpose-driven spirit to work

    Increasingly, religious beliefs and practices of employees are becoming more evident in the workplace. Religious diversity and concepts of spirituality are more prevalent in organizational settings.

    July 18, 2014

Business Video