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Do HOAs have the right to restrict religious displays?

Homeowner’s associations across Illinois, Michigan and the rest of the United States typically set guidelines by which residents have to abide. Yet, many HOAs run into trouble when residents feel as if their HOAs are singling them out or discriminating against them in some way. An increasingly hot-button issue in many HOA communities across the nation involves residents putting up religious holiday displays and residents or HOAs trying to restrict them.

Per the Washington Post, many HOAs across the United States have bylaws regarding the types of decorations their residents may display and when they may display them. Until 1968’s passage of the Fair Housing Act, HOAs had considerable control over what their residents could and could not do in terms of displaying and showcasing their religious preferences. However, this changed once the Fair Housing Act took shape.

How the Fair Housing Act changed things

The Fair Housing Act prevents HOAs from establishing guidelines that are discriminatory against anyone who observes or practices a particular religion. For example, bylaws should not say that community members may or may not display Christmas decorations, Hanukkah decorations or other decorations specific to a particular religious holiday.

How HOAs might avoid raising ire among residents

Instead, if HOAs want to restrict holiday decorations, they must do so in a manner that does not show preference to one type of religion or another. For example, rather than ban or allow decorations for a specific holiday, bylaws might ban certain types of “holiday decorations or displays,” in general.

HOAs that fail to consider religious discrimination when making rules about holiday displays may find themselves embroiled in costly and time-consuming legal battles.