While Christmas lights may seem like a beacon of joy during the holidays, they tend to cause several disputes in neighborhoods. As a rule of thumb, the appropriate time to hang up the Christmas lights is the day after Thanksgiving and the best time to remove them is soon after the New Year. But can the law actually enforce what seems like common sense? The short answer is that it depends on the community.
If you are planning to set up over-the-top Christmas lights in your front yard, you can check to see if there are any Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) that govern your neighborhood or complex. This will outline the uses and limitations on the property that are imposed by the Homeowners Association (HOA). These two documents will often contain provisions about what types of decorations are allowed, when you can put them up and when you must take them down.
For example, they might say that roof anchored displays are not allowed, or they may establish a time of day when all holiday music must stop. The HOA has the power to fine you for non-compliance so it is worth your time to review the community documents.
Each city has its own residential outdoor lighting ordinances you should review. However cities either have an exemption for seasonal holiday lighting or they simply do not aggressively enforce their lighting ordinances during the holidays. Instead, the city is more likely to take notice if your holiday display is creating an unreasonable amount of noise or if you are creating traffic problems in your neighborhood by the number of people driving by your home to admire your holiday cheer.
Last year, there was a legal battle over a famous ‘Arcadia Christmas House’ located in Phoenix. The house was extravagantly decorated by a man for more than three-decades until officials from the city addressed complaints in a meeting. The statements said that since December of 2014, the man’s neighbors had filed over a dozen inquiries and calls for service because of the lights. However, the City of Phoenix later clarified that the concerns and suggestions did not prevent him from displaying the usual holiday lights.
Other options include submitting your holiday decorating plants to your HOA for approval and talking to your immediate neighbors in advance to explain your decorating plans. This way, they can address any concerns ahead of time. However, It is always important to check with an attorney first if you have any legal questions about your Christmas decorations, especially if you are planning for crowds to come visit them.