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The smell of cinnamon and fresh cut trees waft out of apartment doors, and holiday songs are on repeat. Multifamily residents are decking their spaces for another festive season. As lights are strung along balcony railings and doors are adorned with wreaths and garland, multifamily property managers aim to ensure the safety of residents while also allowing holiday spirit to shine.

Multifamily Executive caught up with Carolyn Cannella, regional manager of Morgan Properties, and Jaime Sanmiguel, managing director of FirstService Residential’s Multifamily Rental Division, on how they’re preparing for the season.

MFE: Is there any holiday décor that is off limits to renters?

Cannella: Our residents are welcome to decorate to express their festiveness! Most residents use good judgment. We only ask that holiday lights are not affixed to the building exterior with nails or staples. Today, there are great products available, such as the 3M Command removable hooks to assist with all decorating needs and avoid damage upon removal. We encourage safety first as always, so candles are discouraged or any decoration that impedes entry/exit of the apartment home.

Sanmiguel: Residents will often want to decorate their doors or entryways leading to their apartments. Many boards and building owners are happy to accommodate this, if the decorations do not interfere with closing and opening the door, maintain hallway egress, and do not contain anything offensive or inflammatory. Nothing is allowed to be placed on hallway floors.

MFE: Are there any safety rules for residents regarding trees, lights, candles, etc.?

Cannella: Safety first! We strongly recommend that no candles are lit or burnt within the apartment at any time. There are battery-operated candles that flicker and create the same ambiance without the risk. We also provide safety tips each season that are targeted at how to make sure pets remain safe, too.

Sanmiguel: While less common, there are buildings that prohibit residents from having a real Christmas tree, as this often creates debris in the hallways and stairwells when the tree is removed. Christmas trees have also been known to cause fires when fronds become dried and brittle. To prevent this, residents should always store their trees away from radiators, use LED lights that remain quite cool compared with incandescent bulbs, and provide adequate water to keep the tree hydrated.

Lit candles should never be placed on or near a Christmas tree and should never be left unattended. This also applies to menorahs and kinaras, which should be supervised, when lit.

MFE: How do property managers enforce holiday decorating rules?

Cannella: Property managers are always walking their communities, so any potential hazards are addressed immediately. Oftentimes, a conversation with the resident provides a quick resolution.

Sanmiguel: When asked by the board or building owner, we send an email to residents reminding them what the building permits and how to care for their Christmas trees. It’s difficult, however, to police conditions within a resident’s apartment. To help, we always ask the building staff to keep an eye out for residents who may be in violation of building policies.

MFE: While keeping everyone safe, do any of your communities encourage festiveness with decorating contests?

Cannella: Absolutely! There is a wealth of creative talent among our residents. We have hosted pumpkin decorating contests for Halloween as well as door, patio, or balcony decorating contests for the winter holidays. We have done these contests within single communities and will often select winners from across our portfolio through online photo entries. We also conduct contests that allow our residents to include their pets in some of these seasonal events. Our own teams love to decorate common areas and get in the spirit within leasing offices, clubhouses, and other spaces that residents frequent.

Sanmiguel: While holiday decorating contests are very owner-specific and require a level of trust with participants, I have managed buildings that host contests for best balcony lighting and decorations, front door décor, and Christmas tree decorations.

MFE: Are there any standout decorations you’ve seen throughout communities?

Sanmiguel: In one of our buildings, a resident put a holographic projection of a Santa and a sled hovering in the hallway. They took the peephole and door chime off, and Macgyvered a projector to the inside of the door to aim this hologram down the hallway by the elevators. Pretty innovative.

Morgan Properties

Cannella: A suburban New Jersey property has a few residents that decorate the outside of their apartment by displaying a snowman and sled and stringing colorful lights up on their patio, balcony, and even their bicycle—that one was ‘wheelie’ festive!