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HOA orders family to take down decorations

A letter from a homeowners association to a family in San Antonio made national news in mid-November. The letter directed the family to take down their Christmas decorations that they put up on November 1, asking, “please remove the snowman until closer to the holiday season.” The letter did not specify when would be a more appropriate date.

Planning ahead

The couple says that they got a jump on the holiday spirit for several reasons. Most notable was that the wife was due to give birth to the family’s third child closer to Christmas, and she would have more difficulty decorating closer to the actual holiday. The parents also wanted to ensure that their other two other kids could get into the holiday spirit before the arrival of the baby.

HOA and rules

The purpose of HOA is to ensure that there are specific standards maintained within the association. It helps maintain those standards by performing maintenance, paying for certain utilities and services and enforcing the bylaws. The family was unaware that they were breaking any rules, and subsequently posted the HOA’s letter on Facebook, which drew a tremendous amount of support and news coverage.

A delicate balance

The many supporters included the family’s neighbors. Some even went so far as to begin their decorating early as a show of solidarity with the family. This cause probably brought neighbors together in a way that it would not otherwise. Still, the HOA (who has not responded to repeated requests for a statement) needs to be careful about issuing letters and enforcement.

In this case, there seems to be no rule in the bylaws, nor was the family given a more appropriate date in that letter. The family ignored the letter and planned to hang lights the following weekend.

Disputes often escalate

Disputes between neighbors or their HOA can escalate from a nasty letter to full-blown litigation in Texas, here in Florida or elsewhere. This seems unlikely to happen for the San Antonio family because the holidays will soon be over, and the decorations will come down, but it illustrates how important it is for an HOA to outline its rules and be sensible in their enforcement.

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