• Planning for the Holidays! What Fair Housing Laws Say About Decorations
  • December 10, 2012 | Author: S. Joshua Kahane
  • Law Firm: Glankler Brown, PLLC - Memphis Office
  • As December rolls around and apartment complexes and their leasing offices begin to glimmer and jingle with the lights and sounds of the holiday season, owners and managers should be  ever conscious of what decorations are and are not permitted under the Fair Housing guidelines.  

    Fair Housing laws do not only address discrimination in the renting processes; the laws also   restrict owners and managers from indicating any preference or limitation based on a “protected class”, such as religion.  

    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 “religiously neutral environment.”  A religiously neutral environment is one which shows no preference but instead displays symbols of all faiths.  As you can imagine, compliance with this standard can be very difficult as there are many different religious observances in the month of December alone: Ashura (Islamic), St. Nicholas Day (International), Bodhi Day (Buddhist), Hanukkah (Jewish), Virgin of Guadalupe (Mexico), Santa Lucia Day (Sweden), Las Posadas (Mexico), Christmas, Boxing Day (Canada), and Kwanzaaa (African-American),.

    As such, it can be quite the daunting task attempting to decorate in a fully “religiously neutralenvironment.”

    Practically, however, compliance with the fair housing laws’ “religiously neutral environment” standard  can be achieved by decorating the property with symbols that have already passed the   fair housing  “neutral” test.  When these symbols are displayed together, the law considers the  decorations to have effectively created a “religiously neutral environment:"

    - Christmas Trees

    - Colored Lights

    - Santa Clauses

    - Kwanza Logs

    - Hanukkah Dreidels

    - Angels

    Most important is that religious elements from each of these holidays be displayed so that there can be no implied preference nor inferred discrimination.

    Wishing you all a very happy Ashura, St. Nicholas Day, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah, Virgin of Guadalupe Day, Santa Lucia Day, Las Posadas, Christmas, Boxing Day, and Kwanzaaa!