The holidays are like the weekend of the year. We work hard the rest of the time and look forward to the things we enjoy the most, shared time and meals with loved ones, overeating (overdrinking?), parties, gifts, laughter, etc., and just like the weekend, somehow it goes by too quickly and ends up more loaded with manual labor and demands than we’d like. Somehow many of us forget about all those demands over the ten months between holiday seasons, and many of us end up stressed out hosting guests and parties, making the house look perfect, and finding gifts for everyone. For those who live in HOAs, community rules, leadership, and events can be one more layer of stress. Board Members and Managers might consider the following to help keep the holidays happy for residents:
Lights and Decorations
Part of what people love the most about the holidays is decorating their homes. As with anything creative, there’s no accounting for taste, and it is in the best interest of Boards and Managers to live and let live with holiday displays. However, it is equally important to communicate clearly, and well in advance community guidelines for holiday displays, which might include information about:
- Location – Where will HOA allow for the placement of lights and other décor? The primary concerns here should be safety for all residents and visitors, preserving easements and property access, and preventing damage to homeowner or association property.
- Duration – People put time and effort into holiday displays, and are often rather proud of their work, so they like to keep them up as long as possible. Be sure residents are clear on when displays should be retired until the next holiday season, and maybe when it’s appropriate to drag the decorations back out. A recent and well-publicized homeowner vs. HOA lawsuit resulted in an expensive judgment against an HOA for picking a fight with a new homeowner who put up lights on the first of November.
It’s absolutely shocking how much of what we buy can be dropped on a doorstep without a signature. The proliferation of camera doorbells has put the spotlight on package poachers, but documenting the crime doesn’t actually prevent it. Unless the community has a receiving room and procedures around package delivery, HOAs should not obligate themselves to any responsibility for delivered packages. However, there are some ways HOAs can help reduce crime and keep deliveries safe:
- Build neighborhood bonds – Neighbors who know one another are more likely to are more likely to band together by reporting suspicious behavior or offering to bring in packages left on doorsteps. A friendly neighbor might even offer to receive deliveries directly on another’s behalf. Boards should engage in community-building events throughout the year. At this point in the year, already into the holiday season, Boards and Managers might host an educational event on the topic of holiday safety.
- Establish a neighborhood watch program – If there isn’t one in place already, a neighborhood watch program can be effective in reducing crime. At the very least, homeowners will have a greater degree of awareness as they observe the goings-on of the community. If there is little interest in such a program, perhaps a seasonal holiday watch can be organized to limit the time and attention required by homeowners
- Safety tips – Send out a holiday-themed eBlast with safety tips, such as reminding homeowners to make use of package tracking notifications, having packages delivered to safe locations, or held at a carrier’s location for pickup, and watching out for their neighbors.
Traffic and Parking
All those holiday displays, family dinners, and parties might attract a stream of cars to the community. Associations with gates, gate staff, and parking passes are better to equipped to handle the congestion. For most associations, though, parking restrictions are difficult to enforce. Residents and visitors alike might be unaware of restrictions, so Boards and Managers should get the word out through:
- Signage – Take time to survey parking and traffic signs and replace any that are faded, hard to read, or damaged. Clear landscaping that might be blocking clear view of signs. My community has a “Park and be towed” kind of sign for street parking that someone decided to mow down with their car, so we’ve replaced that in time for the holidays!
- Reminders – eBlasts and newsletters are great tools to remind owners and residents of holiday topics. Fair warning regarding parking makes enforcement seem less harsh.
- Enforcement – No one wants to be the bad guy, but enforcement must be strict and universally applied (don’t find yourself accused of selective enforcement by owners). When you send out a notice, post a parking fine to an account, or even tow just one car, word travels fast and owners know what they can’t get away with. Often, parking restrictions are related to safety; car-lined streets make it difficult for ambulances and firetrucks to get through in an emergency, so strict enforcement could be a liability issue for the HOA.