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Garage Sale or Thrift Shop in Disguise? Doesn’t Matter. Your Homeowners Association Can do Something About it

This time of year a lot of people are cleaning out their closets, gathering up unused household items, and having garage sales.  It is also the time when many communities are having community-wide garage sales.  But what about the homeowners who on a regular basis fill their driveway with multiple used strollers, suitcases, microwaves, vacuums, toaster ovens, mountains of clothes and the occasional spare tire?  Can this possibly be a legitimate garage sale or is it really a thrift shop business in disguise?

A garage sale is a sale of used household or personal articles (such as furniture, tools, or clothing) held on the seller’s own premises.  Sellers are not required to obtain a business license or collect sales tax for the items sold.  So how do the owners who seem to be operating a driveway thrift shop (selling items every weekend for example) fit into the garage sale category?  In reality, while their activities probably do not constitute a legitimate garage sale, it might be difficult for an association to prove they are operating a thrift shop such that a court would make them stop.  All is not lost however.

The constant presence of the “garage sale items” usually brings about increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic and causes parking issues while people are shopping the garage sale. While this may give rise to a nuisance which most governing documents prohibit, it requires legal action to gain compliance. It may therefore be preferable to have a provision in the governing documents specifically dealing with garage sales in terms of their frequency and the manner in which they are done.  The strongest restrictions prohibit garage sales altogether while others will permit them only during community-wide events held once or twice a year or during specific hours in the day on a specific day of the month, quarter or year. If your community is having problems with the recurring garage sales and does not have any such restrictions, reach out to your lawyer for the best provisions to deal with problem.

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