Homeowners' associations (HOAs) are quite common across Florida, and many people living in them enjoy the benefits of being a part of this type of community. Though, HOAs come with rules with which homeowners must comply.
It is also important to note that HOAs must follow the rules as well. There are numerous statutes in place here in Florida that dictate what an HOA must and must not do. However, disputes can arise when members and an HOA do not see eye-to-eye on a particular issue, like seasonal decorations.
HOA rules vs. federal laws
This was evidently the case in a recently resolved dispute between homeowners in another state and their HOA regarding the acceptable holiday decorations.
According to reports, the owners had for years decorated their home with hundreds of thousands of lights, carolers, live animals and other spectacles to celebrate the holiday season. Their home became quite well-known for their outrageous displays.
When the homeowners moved, though, their new HOA argued that they could not create similar displays, as it would increase traffic levels in the area and result in bright, excessive lighting, which both go against HOA rules.
However, holiday decorations are not the same as routine decorations; there is typically a religious aspect to holiday decor. As such, the homeowners sued the HOA claiming it was discriminating against the homeowners' religion by not allowing them to put up their display.
Recently, a jury sided with the homeowners, awarding them $75,000 in damages. The jury agreed that the HOA's rules violate the federal Fair Housing Act protecting homeowners from religious discrimination.
Resolving similar disputes
Homeowners and HOAs alike have rights and permissions under Florida and federal laws. However, it can be difficult to interpret these rights, especially for people without a background in real estate transactions and laws. As such, any party facing this type of dispute in their own HOA would be wise to discuss the case and possible remedies with an experienced attorney.