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Thanksgiving has passed, which means the holiday season is in full swing here in the Valley. The snowbirds have arrived, the traffic is thickening and decorations in both commercial and residential spaces add extra festivity. Inflatable yard figures and bright lights might be a holiday tradition for some homeowners, but those who live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association (“HOA”) do not necessarily have the same freedom.

Just like with Halloween decorations in HOAs, holiday lights in Arizona are subject to HOA approval. Here are five key things to understand before decorating this year.

1. HOA Rules for Holiday Lights in Arizona

Every neighborhood is different, so it’s important for homeowners to read the fine print and educate themselves about their own HOA’s restrictions on holiday lights before putting forth the time and effort to decorate their homes. Rules that outline dates and times in which lights can be turned on are standard, but some HOAs may also enforce the size of other decorations or prohibit religious displays of any kind.

2. Why HOAs Enforce Holiday Decoration Rules

Homeowners associations are created to promote safety and community within their respective neighborhoods, which means that decorations need to stay in compliance with those goals. Safety is top of mind, so many HOAs dictate where holiday decorations can and cannot be placed so as not to block common walking paths or otherwise disrupt foot traffic. Additionally, excessive and/or offensive decorations detract from the cohesiveness and curb appeal that HOAs strive to maintain.

3. Community Associations Institute Tips for Homeowners

In an article published in The Arizona Republic on holiday lights in Arizona in 2018, the central Arizona chapter of the Community Associations Institute offered some valuable tips for homeowners questioning how elaborately they can decorate.

Their first tip was to keep on the lookout early during the holiday season for a door-to-door distributed rule sheet or an update to your HOA’s website. An HOA should provide clear information as to the dates decorations can be put up, as well as when they need to be removed. Second, note the times lights can be turned on and when they must be turned off.  The final piece of advice is to ensure all decorations are “fair” to all religions.

4. Your Rights as a Homeowner

Homeowners are well within their rights to decorate their homes for the holidays, and they cannot be fined by the city of Phoenix. Those who live in neighborhoods without an HOA are not obligated to abide by any restrictions, so long as there are no illegal activities or substances as part of the decorations.

One well-publicized case of decorative freedom was in Arcadia, where a couple’s display of 250,000 lights has been illuminating the neighborhood for more than 30 years. Though neighbors complained, there was no HOA to dictate the limits of the decorations, so the display is back.

5. How to Handle HOA Disputes

While homeowners are entitled to bring a lawsuit against their HOA or their neighbors, not all homeowners choose this route. Some homeowners file a petition under the HOA dispute process administered by the Arizona Department of Real Estate, which was established to make the dispute process between HOAs and homeowners much cheaper. The form is located on the Arizona Department of Real Estate website.

For added protection, contact a real estate attorney to fight your HOA.

Find An Experienced Phoenix Real Estate Attorney

The attorneys at MacQueen & Gottlieb have significant experience with real estate and HOA law in Arizona. Our attorneys can assist you with any issues and help you understand your rights. If you live in an HOA community and are experiencing disputes over holiday decorations, our attorneys can assist you in pursuing that case. Contact us today at 602-533-2840 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.

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