Dear Fair Housing Lady,
At this time of year I would say “Merry Christmas” to you, but I am oh-so-nervous to do that. My manager says that would be a violation of the Fair Housing Act because anything related to religion is a no-no (I am even afraid to say “sin” because that might have religious connotation, too). And we have been told no Christmas tree in the lobby area of our apartment building. Will anyone be offended if I wear my Rudolph earrings?
Sincerely, confused and wondering…
Dearest Sincere Reader:
You have posed what seems to be an eternal question for the apartment industry each year…how much Christmas is “too much” Christmas at your community from a fair housing standpoint? I am often asked “Can we say Merry Christmas?” or “Can we put a Christmas tree up in the lobby?” Way back in 1995, HUD issued an advertising memo which says that the “use of secularized terms or symbols relating to religious holidays such as Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, or St. Valentine’s images, or phrases such as “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Easter,“ or the like does not constitute a violation of the [Fair Housing] Act.” While that is a memo about advertising, I think it a logical hop, skip and jump to say that yes, you can say “Merry Christmas” to folks who come to your community. As to that Christmas tree in the lobby, the answer to that is “yes” as well. Just remember – no crèche with the Baby Jesus. And I have it on good authority that the courts have determined a number of other holiday symbols to be generic or commercial in nature: colored lights, Kwanza logs, dreidels, and even angels. Now, as to your earrings. As long as they are not ones with annoying blinking red light noses, no one is likely to be offended.
Fair Housing Lady
Fair Housing Lady is the alter-ego of Nadeen Green, Senior Counsel with For Rent Media SolutionsTM. While that makes her our attorney, she is not yours, so her information is not legal advice for you. She would love to have your questions for future newsletter appearances (so she doesn’t have to make the questions up, which is just extra work), so send them to [email protected].