You will never know what you will find at a garage sale. Expect to see used appliances, amazing art, old Pokemon cards, sports jerseys, or even an original Star Wars poster from 1977!
But without a permit, the cops may put a stop to your garage sale and fine you $250 or more.
Garage sales are legal, but some cities and counties may require a permit to organize a garage sale. Other areas may not require a garage sale permit as long as the seller does not sell food. Along with permit requirements, cities may have additional laws about what can be sold at a garage sale and how often sales can happen at the same address.
Garage sales are legal, but some cities and counties may require a permit to organize a garage sale. Along with permit requirements, cities may have additional laws about what can be sold at a garage sale and how often sales can happen at the same address.
If you have a garage sale without permission, you won’t end up in jail, but you might end up with a hefty fine.
Keep reading to learn how to find out if you need a permit from your city to have a garage sale. You also need to know the common items you can’t sell at the sale.
What You Need to Know About Garage Sales
Besides a permit, there are a few legal considerations to know and follow. Not all of these considerations apply to every garage sale, but they can occur from time to time. It is best to know and inquire about them when requesting a garage sale permit than to not know at all.
One critical legal consideration that may apply to extremely successful garage sales is paying taxes. Many people balk when they find out they may have to pay taxes on the garage sale.
There’s no way that the average garage sale makes enough money for the IRS to care about the taxes, right?
The average garage sale makes $500 to $1,000 in sales. Most cities and states do not require a person to pay taxes on garage sales revenue as long as the seller makes less than $3,000.
But if you cross that $3,000 threshold, you may have to pay taxes. It depends on the state’s tax laws.
Vehicles can be sold at garage sales, but you must perform all of the necessary legal procedures that go with selling a vehicle. You cannot just give away the keys and watch the new owner drive away!
You’ll have to register the transfer at the DMV and the new owner will have to pay any vehicle sales taxes and acquire new tags.
It might not be a good idea to sell a vehicle at a garage sale, as it tends to get complicated. Talk to the buyer and sell it on a different day.
Frequency of Sales
There are some rules about how often a location can have a garage sale. If you want to have many garage sales in a year, it is possible. The catch is that you’ll have to register as a small home business to do so.
Do You Need a Permit for a Garage Sale?
Depending on the city or county in which you live, you may or may not need a permit to have a garage or yard sale. It completely depends on the laws of the city.
If you are in a big city, you will most likely need a permit. If you are in a small city or a town, then you may not need one.
Here’s how to find out if you need a permit to have a garage sale:
Open a new tab on your browser and type the name of your city or county AND the term garage sale or yard sale into the search bar.
Once your search has loaded, search for the city or county’s website. The page that has the permit information will not always have the term “permit” or have a dedicated page to learn about yard sale permits.
For example, if you search for yard sale permits for Barstow, California, Google will bring up a page of FAQs. On this page, there is only one sentence dedicated to yard sale information in Barstow.
So keep an eye out when researching. You will have to dig through government websites. These sites are not known for their easy-to-find information.
How Many Garage Sales Can You Have in a Year?
There are many restrictions across the country about how many garage sales can occur at a location. The permit itself or the website page will say how many times an address can host a yard sale in a given year.
Many cities will allow a garage sale to happen at a location twice a year.
However, other cities will allow garage sales to happen at the same location twice a month. These are usually smaller cities or suburbs and towns.
There may be other restrictions applied to garage sales. In Los Angeles, a person cannot have a garage sale on the weekdays. They can only have garage sales on Saturday and Sunday.
What Should You Not Sell?
Obviously, you cannot sell things that are already illegal at a garage sale. It will not matter if you have a permit or not.
You cannot sell drugs, sex, illegal paraphernalia, state secrets, ivory, endangered animals, or people.
So you may need to tell your child that they’re not allowed to sell their baby brother at the garage sale, no matter how much they wants to be an only child.
Other than that, there are a few types of products that are illegal to sell at a yard sale that one would not think are illegal. This list includes:
- Hot food
- Cold food
- Baked goods
- Mattresses (bed bug issue)
If you are planning on selling baked goods and drinks, like coffee or tea, at your garage sale, you have to double-check and make sure it is covered by the permit.
Check if the local government has a combined permit of garage sale and food license.
You may need to apply for a food vendor’s permit. Check if the local government has a combined permit of garage sale and food license.
I Live in an Apartment. Can I Still Have a Garage Sale?
If the city allows people in multiple housing complexes to have garage sales, they usually require the written permission of the landlord.
Also, the amount of yard sales that can happen at that location applies to all units.
So if a single address can only have 2 garage sales a year, generally only two families can have garage sales.
Conclusion for If Garage Sales Are Legal
The majority of cities, towns, and counties in the U.S. allow for garage sales. But some places require permits and have restrictions and limitations.
Locating garage sale permit information can be tricky as you will have to navigate government websites. Most likely, you will not be able to sell food at a garage sale.