You see them every weekend: YARD SALE. Sometimes they are referred to by their other names too (attic sale, garbage sale, junk sale, lawn sale, moving sale, patio sale, rummage sale, tag sale, thrift sale). You’ve probably never known just what was involved with the exchange of a dollar bill for some treasure, at least legally.
You may not have known you have been engaging in yard sale law.
Here’s the typical scenario. After you have pulled your permits, advertised, hung signs, and set-up, you get your first customer. Someone actually wants that piece of “treasure” you have horded in your closet or attic for eight years! They ask, “how much for this?” It ends up going something like this:
-Them, “how about $.25?”
$2. Final offer. I paid a lot for it.
[They hand over $1.75, you count it in front of them, pocket it, and let them leave with the item]
SUCCESS!!! Okay, you’re thinking about how you paid $10 for it, but at least you got paid to clean out your closet. What happened? Aside from complying with local laws for permitting the yard sale, with all the restrictions on what can be sold (usually not alcohol, firearms, drugs, etc.), you may have just touched the following areas of law (depending on what was sold, when, where, etc.):
- Contract Law/UCC — the transaction itself.
- Property Law — entitlements over what was sold.
- Insurance Law — liability related to invitees.
- Municipal Law — compliance with local laws.
- Constitutional Law — civil rights and restrictions on such transactions.
- Criminal Law — was the item sold illegal?
- Intellectual Property Law — even if not criminally illegal, do you have the right to sell the item?
- Family Law — did you sell community property? A household possession? Something you cannot sell?
- Tax Law — was the item new or used? Did you make a profit, a capital gain?
(to name a few)
Quick Focus on Contract Law
YES! You just made a contract for the sale of a pre-owned good. You didn’t need to write it down, you didn’t need to even speak. Contract law consists, in its most basic form, of an offer, an acceptance, and a “bargain for consideration.” An offer is a promise to sell the item upon specific measurable terms. To be specific:
A promise is a manifestation of a willingness to enter into a bargain, so made as to justify another person in understanding his assent to it was invited and will conclude it.
An acceptance is an assent to those terms, and the “consideration” is a mutually induced exchange between the parties.
You agreed to sell the item for $1.75 (and not $2.00), because you accepted the buyer’s offer to buy for that price. You were no longer offering to sell the item, but they offered to buy the item. Their promise was an offer to pay the amount they handed to you (which you could have rejected and handed back). Your promised acceptance was to keep the money and let them leave with the item. Finally, the “bargain for consideration” was the exchange of cash for an item, each action induced by the other’s action, and inescapably linked.
The deal is done. It was a success. Contracts are not always as clear cut. When that happens, give us a call and we’ll see if we can help.
Merrill A. Hanson
Law Office of Merrill A. Hanson
180 N. Glendora Ave., Ste. 201
Glendora, CA 91741
Originally Published April 17, 2014
This page is not intended to convey legal advice. You should contact an attorney for your specific situation.