Tis the Season to be confused about what holiday symbol to display. There are clear regulations about Displaying Religious Symbols. Display the wrong symbols and you may be violating the Fair Housing Act. Fair housing laws protect tenants from discrimination in housing based on the person’s religion (or lack of religion). Religious decorations and displays in the common areas may suggest to tenants that the landlord or management company favors tenants with a particular religious affiliation.

While there is nothing unlawful about putting up holiday decorations, landlords and management companies must avoid displays that give the impression the landlord or Management Company favors one religion over another. Of course we must also be sensitive to the atheists and agnostics who are entitled to exactly the same fair housing rights as any other group.  By displaying religious decorations you are implying you only want renters who are religious.

So, does this mean you should avoid displaying holiday decorations?  

It has been well established within fair housing laws that multi family communities may decorate for the holidays as long as the decorations create a neutral environment showing   no religious preference over another but instead displays symbols of all faiths. This may be challenging with all the different religions that celebrate their holiday during this season. A safer more practical approach would be displaying decorations that are more generic in nature than religious.

HUD and the courts have determined that Christmas trees, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, candy canes colored lights, snowmen, Kwanza logs, angels, the Hanukkah menorah –candelabra, Hanukkah dreidels and other such decorations are not religious decorations and therefore you can display these items and not be in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

BUT – Nativity scenes, crosses, bibles, “happy birthday Jesus” signs, Stars of David, are all definitely religious in nature rather than secular, and should not be displayed  in the common  areas ( unless, as mentioned above you are willing to undergo the daunting task of display decorations of all other faiths.

(Click Here for our new blog post on this topic).

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Posted by: marvinkatz on December 19, 2013