RIGHTS TO DISPLAY RELIGIOUS DECORATIONS
Be careful not to restrict your Tenants Religious Freedom and their First Amendment rights
As we are full swing into the holiday season, landlords need to be careful not to trigger a fair housing complaint filed by an apartment renter who claims they are a victim of religious discrimination.
Landlords should re-familiarize themselves with an earlier blog I wrote called “Happy whatever Day” regarding the rights of tenants to put up holiday decoration displays and religious symbols AND remember that it is only the lobbies, hallways and other common areas of your property where you need to concern yourself in making sure they are maintained in a religiously neutral state.
However, while common area religious displays should be avoided, residents should always be allowed to decorate their units as they desire and display any personal religious items in their own apartments.
But what about placing their holiday decoration displays or religious symbols on their windows, their front doors or balconies? Tenants should be allowed to display their religious items, even on the outside of their individual apartment doors. However, the landlord can create fair polices (that are enforced consistently) for seasonal displays that face the outside and can limit these seasonal holiday decoration displays to a specific period of time, for example a two-week period, to avoid having these decorations still hanging around in the spring.
Always endeavor to create an atmosphere that is inclusive and welcoming for all faiths and traditions. Most often, this is the best way to avoid complaints and ensure a peaceful and harmonious holiday season for all you tenants.
However, you can’t please all – and if other tenants complain about how their neighbor is decorating the outside of their unit, before you make a rash decision or take any action, call your lawyer for guidance.
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