If you live in a residential neighborhood, you’ve probably seen a number of houses that take holiday decorating to the next level, stringing an ornate display of lights, inflatable characters, and cornea-scorching good cheer.
But not everyone enjoys these elaborate expressions of festivity. In Idaho, a couple just won a lawsuit they brought against their local Homeowners’ Association (HOA). The reason for the dispute? A grandiose expression of seasonal spirit.
Each year, Jeremy and Kristy Morris blanketed their Hayden, Idaho, home with more than 200,000 lights, invited carolers to sing, and arranged for a live nativity scene with a real camel. The spectacle has attracted busloads of people and garnered the Morris family some local notoriety, evolving into an attraction that might be worthy of admission. No fees were charged, but the Morris family did accept donations for local cancer charities.
But when they relocated to a new home in 2015, the HOA protested, saying that the home was in violation of rules that prohibit homeowners from prompting increased traffic or mounting excessively bright lights on their property. The Morrises, in turn, argued that the HOA was displaying a bias against their religion.
In 2018, after some nasty letters, the Morris clan decided to sue, claiming the HOA was discriminating against them. Jeremy Morris, who is an attorney, asked to be de-annexed from the HOA and sought $250,000 in punitive damages. According to ABC 7, a jury found in favor of the family and awarded them $75,000 in damages, asserting the HOA was in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
But victory appears to be bittersweet for the Morrises, as the protracted controversy and enmity has dampened their motivation to continue their holiday tradition at their current home. Jeremy Morris told the Coeur d'Alene Press that his family will be using the money awarded in court to move his family to a neighborhood more hospitable to their brand of good cheer.
[h/t ABC 7]