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Effective Community Rules for Firework Use | Legal Insights Blog

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Effective Community Rules for Firework Use


While all of us here at Williams & Strohm, LLC look forward to and enjoy watching fireworks with our friends and families during the Fourth of July holiday, the close living situations in many condominiums and subdivisions typically make these communities inappropriate locations for the use of fireworks. Ohio updated its laws to allow more freedom to citizens to use fireworks within the state and boards must now take extra care to ensure they have adopted appropriate rules governing the use of fireworks within their communities.

With recent updates to its laws, Ohioans are now authorized to set off fireworks within the state during certain time periods. The details of what is allowed are set forth in O.R.C. 3743.45, which became effective on July 1, 2022. Without summarizing that provision, it is safe to say that residents in the state are sure to be letting off much stronger fireworks with more regularity than what was legally possible in the past.

The reality is that most Ohio condominiums and subdivisions are simply not appropriate locations for fireworks to be used. In the close quarters, a single spark can lead to disastrous consequences. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that thousands of fires are started by fireworks annually, often leading to injuries, extensive property damage, and sometimes even death. Given the high density of buildings and the proximity of homes, the potential for fire spreading rapidly in these communities is significantly increased. 

Noise disturbance is another major concern. As many residents may be elderly, have young children, or need to wake up early for work, the late-night disruptions caused by fireworks are more than just a simple annoyance. They can severely disturb sleeping patterns and lead to heightened stress levels and tension among neighbors. 

Additionally, fireworks can be terrifying for animals, causing anxiety, stress, and unpredictable behavior. Reports of pets fleeing their homes in fear, and in some tragic instances, injuring themselves or getting lost, increase around times when fireworks are traditionally set off. Given all these risks and concerns, it is clear to most that these locations are not ideal locations for personal and unregulated fireworks usage.

Thankfully, most communities do not need to rely on the state to restrict firework usage, and instead, boards can and should create their own restrictions. O.R.C. 5311.081(B)(4)-(5) and O.R.C. 5312.06(D)(5), in conjunction with the typical grants of rulemaking authority that are often found in community association governing documents, will generally provide boards with ample authority to regulate the use of fireworks. Using this authority, most boards can impose restrictions on fireworks, including times and locations when they may be allowed or prohibiting them entirely in the interest of safety and harmony among residents.

A vital aspect of any rule is enforceability. It is very important to create rules that can be effectively enforced. While this is true of any rule, it is even more crucial when dealing with violations that tend to be more situational. For instance, while providing a friendly warning for most violations before proceeding to a fine is recommended, dealing with an issue like fireworks may lead to the rule being ineffective. 

If an owner knows that they can set off a box of fireworks and wake the whole neighborhood up, and will, at worst, receive a warning not to do it again, that may not dissuade an owner—especially if they likely have no plans of letting off fireworks again after the holiday has passed. A slap on the wrist may not make someone think twice about launching an exploding rocket. But the imposition of an enforcement assessment of $500.00 is much more likely to gain compliance. Thus, boards may wish to create rules that carry more immediate and substantial penalties when dealing with these disruptive activities.

Regulating firework use is a great example of an area that is a suitable use of the board’s rulemaking authority. There are many issues that we have helped our clients address through the creation and adoption of well-written rules. If your community would like help addressing this issue or determine if your community’s rules can be improved in any way, please reach out to one of the attorneys at Williams & Strohm, LLC at (614) 228-0207.

Jesse Kanitz

Jesse Kanitz

Mr. Kanitz has been practicing law since 2008 with experience in civil litigation, creditor’s rights, landlord/tenant, and otherwise representing clients in a wide array of matters, including zoning issues affecting community associations. Read Jesse Kanitz's full bio.