Apartment Living BlogApartment Living › Dear Fair Housing Lady: Merry Christmas?

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 Nadeen.Green@ForRent.com.

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About :

Nadeen Green is the senior legal counsel for For Rent Media Solutions. She has been an attorney and has taught Fair Housing law to the multi-family housing industry for decades, presenting more than 1,150 programs to management companies and apartment associations nationwide, including the National Apartment Association, IREM and AIM. Her reader-friendly articles and guest blogs appear regularly in publications and on websites, and she blogs as Fair Housing Lady at http://fairhousing.forrent.com/. Nadeen lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, Ned.



  1. Emily Mae Schneider says:
    I always say: “Happy Holidays.” You can’t go wrong with that phrase.
    If you want a tree you can have a “Holiday Tree” without any specific religious decor. I would use just regular ball ornaments or snowflakes. Keep it simple and it will look very elegant.

    Good luck and happy holidays!

  2. ^^ Please, another ‘Holiday Tree’ supporter.. tell me, which holiday might that tree be representing?

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