Can I hang Christmas lights on my balcony?

Apartment dwellers may want to get into the Christmas spirit by hanging lights on their balcony, but they should be aware that their building’s management association may have rules that prescribe if and how they can hang lights.

While you have exclusive ownership of the inside of your apartment, your balcony is technically part of the building’s public space with usage rights granted to the apartment owner. As such, owners and tenants must follow the rules for the use of balconies which are set out in the management agreement.

Check your building’s bylaws

Every condominium will have a set of bylaws that all apartment owners, and tenants, must follow. Check whether there is any mention of rules regarding Christmas lights in the building’s management agreement. [For tenants: this management agreement is provided by the building’s management association, not the rental management company you are using].

The balcony and external walls of your apartment form an essential part of the building’s structure and serve as important evacuation routes. Therefore, residents must refrain from using the balcony in any way that can affect the structure or its appearance, or hinder the emergency escape routes.

LED lights vs. lighting equipment

Under the standard management agreement issued by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT), residents are not allowed to install or place any lights whatsoever on their balcony. This would exclude lighting installed by the developer.

Lights are banned because of the risk of fire due to heat generated by incandescent light bulbs and halogen lamps.  Most Christmas lights are LED, however, there is some confusion over whether or not these can be included in the MLIT’s definition. The majority of management agreements will also not specifically mention LED lights.

It is prohibited to place, hang or attach things to your balcony

Even though the management agreement may not specifically mention LED lights, they may still be prohibited due to other rules regarding balcony usage.

Many agreements will prohibit residents from placing, hanging or attaching things to their balcony. This would mean that hanging lights along your balcony railings would be in violation of this rule.

Asking for permission from the apartment owners association

If you do want to hang Christmas lights, or any other illuminations from your balcony, it is advisable to inquire with your apartment owners association or building management company. Don’t assume that it is okay because you saw lights on your neighbor’s balcony – check first!

You may have to present a submission outlining your reason for hanging lights, so make sure to include the following:

1) The LED lights used are the type that do not produce heat

2) The lights will not extend over the edge of the balcony

3) The lights will be powered from power outlets within the apartment

4) They will not harm the exterior appearance of the building

5) Where possible, list the times that the lights will be on

Source: Suumo Journal, December 15, 2012.