Fair Housing Holiday Tips - The Fair Housing Institute, Inc.

Fair Housing Holiday Tips

Fair Housing Holiday Tips

In this episode, we talk about fair housing and the holidays. What are some tips and best practices when preparing for the holidays and being fully inclusive? Be sure to check out the full episode and share it with your property management maintenance team.

Fair Housing laws have applications towards holidays and holiday decorations. Best practices and compliance need to be solidly based on Fair Housing law and not on personal opinion.

As a professional in the housing industry, you may be faced with holiday-related items that are simply viewed as potentially offensive and/or insensitive but that are not against Fair Housing laws.

That puts you as an industry professional into a bit of a quandary. What are the best practices when it comes to holidays and holiday decorations? Let’s first see where Fair Housing law applies to holiday decorations.

Here are some common questions that come up.

  • We are entering the Holiday Season. Is it ok that the rental office is festively decorated?
  • My resident enjoys decorating their door for Christmas. Should I monitor what type of decorations they use?
  • Can I prohibit my residents from decorating their doors or patios at the Holidays to prevent those decorations from offending our residents who do not celebrate Christmas?
  • Last year a resident donated a large and obviously expensive Manger Scene to the property. Is it ok if I display it in the rental office?

What You Will Learn In this Article

Memorandum Advertisement Guidelines

On January 9th, 1995, a memorandum was released by HUD (Housing and Urban Development) that in part addressed Fair Housing holiday decorations. The subject was “Guidance Regarding Advertisements Under 804(c) of the Fair Housing Act”. Here is a direct quote from that document.

“The use of secularized terms or symbols relating to religious holidays such as Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, or St.Valentine’s Day images, or phrases such as Merry Christmas, Happy Easter, or the like does not constitute a violation of the Act.”

So which protected class is being referenced? That’s right. It’s religion. What’s the guiding principle behind the Fair Housing Act? You are right again. It’s equality. Now that we can clearly see how the Fair Housing Act applies to holidays and holiday decorations, let’s look into some overall best practices.

Enjoying this article? Be sure to check out – Fair Housing Advertising – Guidelines To Compliance


Fair Housing Holiday Tip #1

Apartment communities are made up of many people with many different religious and cultural backgrounds. When having festivities and social activities for the community, especially around the holidays, are they inclusive? Would everyone be comfortable to be there?

While bringing everyone together as a community, be sure to put a little more thought and planning into a welcoming gathering for all. Think of EVERYONE in your community.

Choice of Wording

Fair Housing Holiday Tip #2

Fair Housing applies to your wording during holiday times.  This can come from your mouth or on what you have on display. Be inclusive of everyone with your vocabulary.

When talking about a holiday party, it might be a good idea to note it as to be related to the holidays. Also representing it as open to all traditions celebrated.

There is a difference between using the expression ‘Happy Holidays’ versus the expression ‘Merry Christmas’. Although the law does not prohibit the use of certain expressions, the principle is to promote equality and build a sense of community. Be beyond the law. Be cautious. Make everyone feel welcome.

Common Areas – Community Events

Fair Housing Holiday Tip #3

Your facility may have common areas that are used by your residents. Some communities have clubhouses, game rooms, sitting areas, etc. Whatever your policies are regarding the usage of these areas, be sure that they are all neutral. If your policies allow for religious activities, make sure your policy covers all religions.

If someone wants to reserve the common area for an activity, it should not be limited because it is not appropriate for the rest of the residents. The limits should only be for disturbing activities; for example, being too loud. All the limits should be equal for every resident.

Holiday Decorations – Best Practices

Fair Housing Holiday Tip #4

Holiday decorations for the inside of a resident’s home should really be none of anyone’s business unless they are breaking a community policy. For example, you may have a policy against setting up 20-foot trees inside an apartment that has only 10-foot ceilings.

Generally, there should be house rules to cover all decorations. This will keep it from being viewed as discrimination against religious or cultural decorations. Other than that it’s really a decorative choice of the resident that does need to be micromanaged.

Document Resident Complaints

Fair Housing Holiday Tip #5

No matter what you do and how careful you are you will always have people who will complain. Make sure you address this with your team. Your team needs to understand how Fair Housing laws could apply and why. Address all complaints of religious discrimination. This includes complaints amongst neighbors.

It should be taken seriously, even if you personally believe it was of joking manners. Listen to the resident. Address the issue. Document – document – document everything. And remember to…document. The protected categories should be topics ALWAYS taken seriously.

Fair Housing Holiday Tips…Celebrate Diversity

Fair Housing applies to any and all holiday time periods. On a year-round basis, it is a must that housing professionals make their communities welcoming. Don’t just follow the law. Understand the Fair Housing Act and its intent. Make sure your community eats, lives, and breathes equality. Have solid policies in place. By following these Fair Housing holiday guidelines and tips you will make it easier for you, your team, and your residents to have a happy and festive time. 

Please keep in mind that our comments are recommendations and not legal advice. It is always good to confer with legal counsel.

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