HOAs and Garage Sales

By:  Timothy Cline, CIRMS

Governing documents for common interest developments may contain a provision that prohibits garage sales, or in some cases, have language expressly prohibiting commercial activities and many types of signs. The intent of these documents is to preserve a certain standard of living. In this case, the intent is to reduce or at least limit, the possibility that residents might have a garage sale every weekend.

For communities without gates, the additional traffic that such sales produce could result in safety issues for the residents. For gated communities, the influx of shoppers trying to access the premises through a guard shack could be overwhelming to the gate staff. If the entry gate is automated and requires a passcode, you might find your passcode prominently appearing on Craigslist for not only the day’s attendees but for the entire world to see (and use for nefarious purposes).

To appease owners who may be strongly appealing to the Board of Directors to have a sale, and in recognition that these sorts of activities may allow an opportunity for a greater sense of community, some boards have actually decided to sponsor a single day out of the year for a garage sale event. Before doing so, however, the Association will need to check with the local municipality if such an event is allowed and what license or permit is required.

To what degree the Association is involved also adds additional considerations. For example, would the garage sale be held in Common Area? Or would each resident have the option of having items for sale on their front yard? In a condominium, the sale would likely be in the Common Area and may become a nuisance to nearby residents.

Could the sale be construed as “HOA Sponsored” and if so, what additional liability exposures does this activity generate for the Association as a whole? Does, for example, the Association: (1) pick the date; (2) pay for the cost to advertise; and (3) providing day-of-the-event signage? Would there be any HOA activity beyond this limited scope? Will alcoholic beverages be served?

The more the Association participates, the more likely it is that the Association’s counsel would want the individual residents who participate in the Garage Sale to sign a waiver to indemnify and hold the Association harmless. To address some basic Garage Sale concerns, the Association may wish to:

  1.  Forbid the sale of firearms, fireworks, pepper spray, and mace.
  2.  Forbid the sale of dangerous items (lawn darts, jungle gyms, bb guns).
  3.  Forbid the sale of hazard chemicals (lead-tainted items such as paint, dangerous or toxic chemicals such as Round-up, et al).
  4.  Forbid the sale of items that may have been recalled such as car seats, cribs, and strollers.
  5.  Have guidelines which restrict pets roaming unattended.
  6.  Merchandise in such a way to allow easy clear pathways for visitors with limited mobility or eyesight.

Spring is traditionally the time residents will wish to clear out storage lockers and garages or reorganize closets. Whether a board of directors allows for this activity on the HOA premises or instead encourage owners to sell at a local flea market, is at their discretion. If the board chooses to relax the rules for a day or weekend, thoughtful consideration should be given to the additional risk it might create for the community and what steps should be taken to mitigate that risk.