What are the rules & your rights when ‘No Soliciting’ signs don’t keep salespeople at bay?
May 1, 2023, 10:51 PM | Updated: 11:05 pm
SANDY, Utah – If you are selling home security, solar panels, lawn care, or even just a vacuum cleaner, let us save you some trouble: Matt Luers is not interested.
“I had a vacuum salesman come to the house and I was like, ‘No, I’m not buying a vacuum from some random guy that has come to my house,’” he said.
Luers says he is especially bothered by salespeople who ring the doorbell at his Sandy home to make their pitch.
“There’s a sign that says right there, ‘No Soliciting,’” Luers said. “It’s pretty obvious.”
It is pretty obvious – a big sign, prominently displayed right next to his front step. Yet, solicitors keep soliciting – disrupting family time and setting off the dog into a barking frenzy.
“It’s just really annoying to be bothered when you’re trying to rest at home,” he said. “Especially, after a long day at work.”
That leaves Luers asking: is there any sort of legal trouble for folks who flout his “No Soliciting” sign?
“No one seems to care about it.”
Are ‘No Soliciting’ signs enforceable?
We took Luers’ question to the Sandy City Police Department, asking if a door-to-door salesperson must obey a “No Soliciting” sign.
“They don’t,” Sgt. Greg Moffitt answered. “They don’t have to obey it.”
It’s true. We looked through Sandy’s city code and could not find one word saying a “No Soliciting” sign must be respected.
“We’d like our salespeople to be a little more courteous to that,” Moffitt said. “And try to just respect the homeowner’s wishes.”
The sergeant knows Luer’s struggle first-hand – the ‘No Soliciting’ sign at his home gets ignored, too.
“I’ll see people come up, ring my doorbell, and they’ll quickly turn, step off my front porch as if they didn’t see the sign,” Moffitt said.
Sandy is a bit of an outlier.
In the municipal codes of the one hundred Utah cities we looked up, most say door-to-door salespeople have an actual duty to check each residence for any “No Soliciting” sign or placard. And if they see one, they must obey it. While penalties vary, in most of the cities we looked at, shrugging off a “No Soliciting” sign could win you a $1,000 dollar fine. Or, up to six months in the clink. Possibly both.
When soliciting becomes trespassing
Just because Sandy doesn’t have any of that in its city code, it doesn’t mean unwanted solicitors are completely off the hook.
“We can issue trespass warnings at the request of the resident,” Moffitt said. “The caveat in the whole thing is this – they have to have a fair warning that they are trespassing and their presence on that property is not wanted.”
And a “No Soliciting” sign is not a fair enough warning, said the sergeant. You need to actually tell that pest control salesperson pestering you to bug off.
“When we’re talking about door to door soliciting or people just in general being on your property, there has to be that verbal notice that is given first,” Moffitt explained.
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That isn’t much help for Luers. He wants his “No Soliciting” sign to do the talking for him.
But his and other signs get ignored because if they don’t sell, door-to-door salespeople don’t get paid. One salesperson told us she found people who put up “No Soliciting’” signs are often people who have a hard time saying, “No.” And, when a sign looks a little worn, she will knock. She said she figures it may have come with the house and not taken down by its new owners.
Can a ‘No Soliciting’ sign be a real contract?
Now, we did find one sign warning solicitors that by knocking on the door, they agree to pay the homeowner $50 for every minute their sales pitch or religious message takes. Could a sign like that have any potential for Luers in deterring people from ringing his doorbell, or does it look too crazy to be enforceable?
We asked Juli Blanch, an attorney with experience in contract law, if a sign like that would really count as a contract.
“The short answer is, yes,” Blanch answered.
Yes, because the sign bears the fundamentals of a contract. There is an offer.
“The offer is the person coming to the door thinks he’s going to be able to get in for free, but here’s the offer from the homeowner,” Blanch said.
There is also consideration – a promise exchanged for a promise.
“In exchange for $50, you get to give your spiel to the homeowner,” Blanch explained.
And you could argue there is acceptance of the contract, with the knocking on the door.
Now enforcing that contract against a Girl Scout or a religious group might prove challenging.
“The person who rang the doorbell might have a different interpretation on what a religious message is,” Blanch said.
And politicians have carved out exceptions for themselves to come to your door and campaign.
Still, Blanch says a sign like this can give you a leg up against a bona fide solicitor.
“I think this is going to have an appropriate deterrent effect on at least some of the people who are the intended audience of this sign,” she said. “I’ll bet they’re going to have people come up to the door, read the sign and turn around.”
As for Luers, he says all this should really boil down to just respecting his wish.
“They should say, ‘OK, well, this guy does not want to be bothered. So, maybe, we should just go to the next house.’”
Solicitor licenses required
Many Utah cities, including Sandy, require salespeople to have a permit or license to go door-to-door. The usual exceptions are religious groups and charitable organizations.
If you welcome solicitors, one thing you should ask first is to see that license or permit so you know if they are legit.