Personally, I find the “HOA vs Christmas display” stories fascinating. There are few topics that get homeowners more fired up than a story about an HOA that forces someone to shut down their awesome Christmas display. Chances are high that you feel the same… unless of course you’ve ever seen the issue from the perspective of the board of directors.

Here’s my take on both sides of the issue.

Lights: Inspiring Holiday Tradition

On one hand these displays can be a fun and even inspiring Holiday event. (Check this one out that I used to visit every year.) They are a great part of the Christmas tradition for so many people. What kind of miserly organization would restrict or ban them?

Grinches! Scrooges!

HOA: A Pain for Neighbors

On the other hand, they can create a significant burden for neighbors who suddenly have to deal with visitors who aren’t always courteous, and have to wait an hour to travel a block to reach their own driveways. (BTW: What happened to the amazing display I mentioned above? He has since moved and has decided not to do the Christmas display partly because of the impact upon neighbors.)

Lights: “It’s My Right!”

On the other hand, this is “my property!” This is America! Free speech! Our forefathers died for my right to celebrate Christmas on my property any. way. I. want!

HOA: All Owners Agreed to Restrictions

On the other hand, community associations frequently have restrictions on what types of displays that are allowed, as well as when, and where. It’s part of a binding contract that every homeowner has agreed to. Even if you’re not part of a community association, over-the-top Holiday displays can sometimes be ruled a public nuisance by a municipality.

Lights: Bad PR Can Hurt Property Values

On the other hand, what if the news picks up the story? Bad PR can have a real impact upon property values and the court of public opinion doesn’t often care who’s right and who’s wrong. Not to mention the stress of having to deal with news cameras and newspaper reporters. Board members are almost always volunteers. Why deal with it?

HOA: This Kind of PR Is Good

On the other hand, many people join community associations precisely so they can avoid the type of neighbors that negatively impact their quality of life. So if the news picks up a story about an HOA that properly enforces its rules, it might actually increase property values, because you’re following through.

My Opinion

I’m not against extravagant Holiday displays at all. I think they’re great when the neighbors are on-board. (A few examples that work great here and here.) But they can definitely create a serious headache when the neighbors aren’t on-board.

Many people reviewed the governing documents when they bought their home and many of those people like the restrictions because they protect property values and help maintain a certain lifestyle. To blatantly flaunt those restrictions isn’t one’s constitutional right, it’s inconsiderate at best.

Yes, HOAs should be aware of the impact that bad PR can have upon property values, but in my opinion this is not the kind of PR that you should lose sleep over. People want buy homes in HOAs because of the benefit of these types of rules. You might do more damage to property values if they saw you bending on their very reason for wanting to join your community.

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Sterling Jenkins

Founder and CTO at GoGladly
Sterling has lived in HOAs and has managed them for a living. A self-described nerd, Sterling finds books about HTML5 and games like Settlers of Catan unreasonably exciting. His nerdiness extends to his love of camping, fishing, and hiking in Utah's breathtaking Rocky Mountains. He especially likes enjoying the outdoors with his beautiful and supportive wife and 4 awesome kids.

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