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Court Rules Co-Owner Violated Condo Bylaws by Failing to Remove Holiday Decorations

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Time for the holiday decorations to come out of their various hiding places to be strung across the roof, wound up and around trees, and blown up (by fans) in the front yard.  That’s right, it’s time for everyone in the neighborhood to put up their holiday decorations that would give Clark Griswold a run for his money.  But what happens when the snow starts to melt in February or May and your neighbor’s holiday decorations are still lighting up the night sky?  Time for the HOA or condo association to get involved.  This article will address Pointe of the Woods Condominium Ass’n v Doel, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued March 25, 2003 (Docket No. 236617), a case from the Michigan Court of Appeals that upheld a condo association’s enforcement of its bylaws to require an owner to remove their holiday decorations.

 

Holiday Decorations Outlasted the Holiday Season

Dr. Zoe Doel and Farbod Talab owned a unit in Pointe of the Woods Condominium and decorated their unit with a display of icicle lights as holiday decorations.  To the dismay of the condo association, the icicle holiday decorations outlasted the holiday season and were kept on the unit for seven months.  The condo bylaws and rules and regulations adopted by the board of directors restricted how long a co-owner could display holiday decorations.  The case does not quote or reference the language of the bylaws and rules and regulations, but it is clear that the co-owners’ holiday decorations were displayed on the unit for seven months and violated the condo bylaws and rules and regulations.  The condo association filed a lawsuit against the co-owners to require them to remove their holiday decorations.

 

Neutral Restrictions on Holiday Decorations are Enforceable

The trial court agreed with the condo association and required the co-owners to remove their holiday decorations.  The co-owners appealed and argued that the condo association violated their civil rights by restricting their ability to display holiday decorations.  The Court of Appeals disagreed with the co-owners’ argument because the co-owners failed to show that they were members of a protected class and that the condo bylaws restricted their use of the unit on the basis of religion, race, color, or national origin.  Instead, the Court held that the restrictions in the condo bylaws pertaining to holiday decorations—which was phrased in neutral terms to apply to all holidays—could be used to require the co-owners to remove their icicle holiday decorations after seven months of being displayed on the unit.

 

Conclusion

The Pointe of the Woods case shows that a condo association is entitled to enforce its bylaws with respect to holiday decorations.  Also, a condo association that does require co-owners to remove their holiday decorations does not make the board of directors a Grinch—sometimes, seven months is more than enough time for holiday decorations to come down.  However, HOAs and condo associations should be careful when drafting restrictions regarding holiday decorations to ensure that the restrictions are neutral and apply to all holidays in order to avoid potentially violating an owner’s civil rights.  HOAs and condo associations that are concerned about their existing restrictions on holiday decorations, want to amend their restrictions to address holiday decorations, or have an owner that leaves their holiday decorations up for an excessive length of time should contact a community association attorney to discuss its options.

Michael T. Pereira is an attorney with Hirzel Law, PLC and focuses his practice on community association law.  Mr. Pereira received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan.  He then obtained his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, where he graduated second in his class and served as the Executive Editor of Outside Articles on the Detroit Mercy Law Review.  After law school, Mr. Pereira worked as a research attorney at the Michigan Court of Appeals before clerking for the Honorable Patrick M. Meter and the Honorable Anica Letica in the Michigan Court of Appeals.  Mr. Pereira can be reached at (248) 397-6596 or mpereira@hirzellaw.com.

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