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Tip #138: Decorating for the Holidays

cranberriesIt’s easy to get swept up into the “spirit of the holidays” but when that spirit includes holiday decorating on rental properties, landlords can quickly fall on a slippery slope when it comes to Fair Housing complaints.

Remember, religious beliefs are protected under anti-discrimination laws. What that means on a practical level is far from clear, but here are some tips to consider:

Religious discrimination rules distinguish between “common” areas like the leasing office, elevators or lobbies, and private residences.

In common areas, avoid overtly religious symbols, like nativity scenes and crucifixes. Courts have found other familiar holiday decor to be “religiously neutral” and therefore a safe bet for decorating. These includes trees, menorahs, Santas, candy canes, lights, and wreaths.

Don’t create the impression that one religion is favored over others. Someone entering  for the first time should not be able to pick up on a religious preference, and existing tenants should feel welcome to participate in any celebration or observance. For instance, if residents request equal exposure in holiday displays, include those symbols along with any others.

Within the private residence, allow tenants to display their personal religious symbols. That may include the outer face of their front door.

Call your lawyer if there is any doubt or question about what is appropriate. Fair Housing complaints are expensive to deal with, even if you win.

See last weeks Landlord Quick Tip.

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