I’ve always had success door-knocking in my own neighborhood, but I was recently told that doing so is illegal. Is this true?
Door-to-door soliciting, and canvassing is generally protected under the First Amendment right to free speech of the U.S. Constitution. Watchtower Bible and Tract Soc’y of New York v. Vill. of Stratton, 536 U.S. 150 (2002). Ordinances prohibiting soliciting outright are unconstitutional, however “reasonable limitations” on soliciting are allowed. If a homeowner posts a “No Soliciting” sign, that is considered a “reasonable limitation,” and effectively prohibits solicitation. If a solicitor ignores a “No Soliciting,” or “No Trespassing” local ordinance is likely violated.
In the city of San Diego, the San Diego Municipal Code §33.1401 defines two types of persons who are regulated. Solicitors are those who may come onto private property for a profit motive. Interviewers are those who have a charitable, religious, or political motive. Someone who passes out promotional material falls into the solicitation category. Municipal Code §33.1402 requires that solicitors register with the City of San Diego and display or at least be prepared to show their registration. Municipal Code §33.1408 provides that solicitors and interviewers must respect “No Soliciting” signs.
Agents soliciting neighborhoods should know the law of their city and respect the notices that home owners post of their property. Even though it may seem to be a minor violation to improperly solicit or trespass, agents should comply with the all applicable laws.
For more info, visit city of San Diego’s website at www.sandiego.gov/police/services/prevention/tips/answerdoor
Robert Muir is a real estate attorney in San Diego, long-time member of SDAR’s Risk Management Committee, and represents agents, buyers and sellers in real estate transactions, litigation, and mediation. He can be reached at www.muirlaw.com