Summer means Spring-cleaning and Spring-cleaning means an abundance of trash. But as the old saying goes, someone's trash is another's treasure, and that often means Summer garage sales. While garage sales may be considered by some to be a harmless American tradition, there are a number of reasons it is not a good idea for your association.
There are a handful of reasons why our office advises against garage sales within or on any part of the association's property, whether they are sponsored by the association or not. First and foremost your declaration may outright restrict against any type of business or trade. This type of prohibition applies to everyone, meaning individual owners as well as the association itself, as the provision would prohibit both the conducting and the permitting of such activities. Other declarations go as far as to ban any activity for profit. Such a provision certainly would prohibit garage sales.
Aside from restrictions against business or any similar type activity, there is also an insurance-related concern. Some insurance companies have denied slip injury claims sustained by individuals while on community association property when coming onto the property for the purpose of buying goods at garage sales. When the insurance companies denied coverage for the claims because of the commercial nature of the activity involved, the community associations involved were then left to defend the claims through their own funds. In addition, Ohio courts have repeatedly found that property owners are not liable for minor imperfections in property that were commonly encountered and not unreasonably dangerous. However, common law generally requires property owners to exercise a greater duty of care towards people who are invited onto the premises for business purposes. This means that an association may be found liable for a slip and fall injury to someone on the property for a garage sale when it would not be liable for the same injury had it occurred to a resident not during a garage sale.
Finally, the influx of outside individuals to a community not only increases the chance of injury but of criminal activity as well. There have been instances at other communities where thefts and burglaries have occurred following garage sales. This occurs as would-be criminals use garage sales as an opportunity to "scout" or "case" a property.
In a perfect world, owners would request permission before considering hosting a garage sale in your community. However, as we do not live in a perfect world, consider a friendly reminder in your next newsletter reminding owners that garage sales are not permitted in your community.