Proposed rules would require permits for garage sales in Arlington

Residents would be limited to how many sales they could have in a calendar year

  • A proposed ordinance for Arlington would require residents obtain a permit to host a garage sale
    A new ordinance proposed for Arlington would mandate citizens obtain a permit before hosting a garage sale (Stock photo)
Zack Maxwell

A new ordinance being considered by the City of Arlington would require residents to obtain a permit before hosting a garage sale.

On Monday, a town hall will occur at which city officials will collect feedback from residents before moving forward with the new idea.

The recommended ordinance would establish a permitting process and various rules for hosting residential garage sales. 

No fee would be charged, but under the new ordinance, residents would be limited to no more than two garage sales each year. Hosting a garage sale would only be permitted if the owner or lessee of a home applied for a permit with the City.

The recommended changes are being driven by citizen complaints involving neighbors hosting continuous garage sales -- sometimes on a weekly basis.

“They’ll open up Thursday through Sunday every week,” said Sue Phillips, an East Arlington resident who started experiencing this problem when a home came up for rent on her block.

“The people renting the home started with a few items that really looked like a garage sale,” Phillips said. “But then they started doing it every weekend. It grew and grew.

“You could tell they weren’t just trying to get rid of some of their stuff, but had moved on to things like furniture and tires.”

Outside of prohibiting the placement of signs in ride-of-ways, Arlington does not currently have an ordinance regulating garage sales, nor are there any rules limiting the number of sales you can have in a year. The draft ordinance would effectively prohibit activity experienced by Phillips. But it would also introduce many other rules too.

In addition to limiting every home to only two garage sales each year, the ordinance would limit any garage sale to 48 hours. By receiving a permit, the homeowner also gives permission for any code compliance officer to enter their property for inspection. Refusal to allow an officer on the premise could result in a warrant being obtained.

The new ordinance would also prohibit the sale of any food or beverages at a garage sale, and would require the permit be displayed within six feet of the curb line.

Phillips is president of East Arlington Renewal, a social organization which works to improve the quality of life in East Arlington. Her organization “fully supports” the proposal.

“We’ve seen an influx of what we think are people trying to run businesses out of their homes,” Phillips said. “They set up these continuous garage sales and code enforcement has little teeth. If people had to get a permit to have a garage sale, then the city would have a record of that.”

If approved, the City would try and setup the permitting process on its website. The ordinance would require an applicant provide proof of residency. It’s not clear if that requirement will work with an online system. It could take up to 30 days for a permit to be approved, per the ordinance.

Any violation of the ordinance could result in a $500 fine for every day the occurrence persists.

But not everyone is supportive of the proposal. Faith Bussey, president of a political action committee called Citizens for a Better Arlington, opposes the ordinance.

“The City Council is always looking for ways to punish the free market,” Bussey said.

She described scenarios where friends have hosted garage sales to raise money for charity or to help cover medical expenses.

“I have a friend right now who hosts a garage sale almost weekly because she’s trying to raise money to help pay for her friend’s cancer treatment,” Bussey said.

She disagrees with Phillip’s assertion that perpetual garage sales negatively impact property values.

“People often complain about the number of people on welfare,” Bussey said. “Yet when people try to sell stuff from their homes to get off the government dollar, they’re punished.

“I think the people conducting these continuous garage sales probably just need the money. We should let them.”

Phillips said she understands some residents will be opposed to the ordinance, but hopes they’ll see the bigger issue of quality of life and devaluation of property values.

“In Arlington, we like to have strong neighborhoods,” Phillips said. “It makes a better community, and brings more customers to businesses. That’s why there always needs to be a balance between businesses and neighborhoods. One cannot exist without the other.

“If you’re running a little industry out of your house, you’re infringing on the rights of citizens to have strong neighborhoods. If code sets it up so you can apply online, then how hard will that be? They just want a record.”

A town hall meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 10 at Arlington City Hall starting at 6 p.m. Residents are invited to provide feedback on the proposed garage sale ordinance, along with amendments to other code chapters related to fence maintenance.