Is It Legal for Salespeople to Ignore My “No Soliciting” Sign?
If we were to categorize people by profession and then rank them, I have to imagine door-to-door salespeople and telemarketers would generally be towards the bottom (but then again, attorneys would too, so they’re in good company). There are ways to prevent telemarketers from calling you through a simple online registration, which, if violated by a telemarketer subjects them to criminal and civil penalties.
But what about door-to-door salespeople? Why don’t we pass a law banning door-to-door solicitation so we can live our lives uninterrupted by pushy peddlers?
It may not surprise you to discover that many cities have tried. But the United States Supreme Court has consistently upheld a constitutional right to knock on someone’s door and annoy the person behind it. The actual court holdings had little to do with the right to annoy and everything to do with the sacrosanct right to free speech as protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
If you want the specifics, you can read the cases here:
- Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc’y of New York, Inc. v. Vill. of Stratton, 536 U.S. 150, 122 S. Ct. 2080, 153 L. Ed. 2d 205 (2002).
- Bd. of Trustees of State Univ. of New York v. Fox, 492 U.S. 469, 109 S. Ct. 3028, 106 L. Ed. 2d 388 (1989).
- City of Watseka, Iroquois Cty. v. Illinois Pub. Action Council, 627 F. Supp. 27 (C.D. Ill. 1984).
- Ohio Citizen Action v. City of Englewood, 671 F.3d 564 (6th Cir. 2012).
The gist of the rulings is that there are less restrictive ways of protecting a homeowner’s privacy than restricting a salesperson’s right to free speech, so ordinances that prohibit soliciting outright are unconstitutional. They are, however, constitutional, if all they do is reasonably place limitations on the soliciting, like requiring that all solicitation occur between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
A common thread among most these cases is that if a homeowner really wants to prevent solicitors, all they have to do is post a sign that says they do not want solicitors.
You may not know that salespeople are often trained to ignore no soliciting signs. Let’s assume then that you have a no soliciting sign, but a salesperson ignores it? What then?
The answer depends on what city and state you live in.
Las Vegas and Henderson each have their own municipal codes that address this issue.
In Las Vegas, the applicable code is 6.62—Peddlers and Solicitors. It reads in pertinent part as follows:
“Peddle or solicit” means to sell, offer for sale, or solicit orders for goods or services upon the streets, sidewalks, or alleys of the City, or by going from dwelling to dwelling or place to place whether by foot or by other means of transportation.
No person engaged in peddling or soliciting shall …(E) Attempt to peddle or solicit at any dwelling where there is displayed near its entrance a sign bearing the words “No Peddlers or Solicitors” or other words of similar import, except pursuant to a prior invitation by any person residing in such dwelling.
Henderson’s Municipal Code, 4.12—Door-to-door Solicitors, Peddlers and Canvassers, has similar language:
It shall be unlawful for any natural person, while canvassing, peddling or soliciting, to enter upon any residential premises or to knock on the door, window or any other part of the residential structure, or ring the bell of any residential premises, or to do any other act calculated to attract the attention of anyone inside of the premises, where the owner, resident, occupant or person legally in charge of the premises has posted, at the entry, or any of the points of ingress to the premises, a sign with visible and legible letters at least three-fourths of an inch in height bearing the words “No Trespassers,” “No Canvassers,” “No Peddlers,” “No Solicitors,” or words of similar import. A sign containing any of these or similar phrases is deemed to prohibit all activities governed by this chapter. This regulation shall apply to all groups of structures or complexes such as apartments, condominiums or private gated communities, which have posted such a sign or signs with letters at least one and one-half inches in height at the entrance(s) or other point(s) of ingress regardless of whether any individual particular residence is posted.
This section shall not apply, however, when the solicitor, peddler or canvasser has, despite the signage, been specifically invited by the owner, resident, occupant or person legally in charge of the premises.
The Henderson Municipal Code has its own definitions of “canvasser,” “peddler,” and “solicitor,” which each are quite lengthy, but which in a nutshell are as follows:
- A canvasser is someone who is not selling anything, but is either promoting some noncommercial cause or event through the distribution of a handbill or flyer or is conducting noncommercial surveys.
- A peddler is someone who is trying to sell you a product that he or she carries with them to your door.
- A solicitor is someone who is trying to get you to agree to purchase a product or service that will be delivered or performed in the future.
In both Las Vegas and Henderson, it is unlawful for a door-to-door salesperson to attempt to sell you something if you’ve posted a No Soliciting sign.
But what about members of religious organizations who aren’t there to sell you anything but to preach, give you literature, or otherwise share a message with you for free?
In Las Vegas proper, the “no soliciting” sign does not appear to apply to religious canvassers, so your sign won’t have the same effect in Las Vegas as it does in Henderson.
In Henderson, the question is a complicated one. The term “canvasser” does not appear to apply
to all proselytizers, just those whose primary purpose is the distribution of “a handbill or flyer advertising a noncommercial item, cause, event or service.” Depending on the purpose of the visit, then, a religious missionary may be within their rights to approach your door even though there is a “no soliciting” sign.
What About Trespassing?
Soliciting where you aren’t welcome is different than trespassing. Trespassing is much broader.
Trespassing is defined as the entry “upon the land or into any building of another with intent to vex or annoy the owner or occupant thereof, or to commit any unlawful act” or the willful entry or remaining “upon any land or in any building after having been warned by the owner or occupant thereof not to trespass.” NRS 207.200.
For our purposes, we will examine the second definition of trespass—remaining on someone else’s property after having been warned not to trespass.
For a residence, sufficient warning to a would-be trespasser includes any of the following:
- putting up a fence; or
- making an oral or written demand to any guest to vacate the land or building.
Oddly, it also constitutes notice not to trespass if you paint something on the outside border of your property in fluorescent orange, at least 50 square inches in size, at at visible intervals of not more than 200 feet between each orange beacon.
So if you don’t want door-to-door salespeople to enter your property, but are okay with religious recruiters, a no soliciting sign should be enough in either Henderson or Las Vegas, and in Henderson should screen some religious types as well.
If you have all the religion you need, put up a fence around your property or post a no trespassing sign where potential entrants to your land can see it (or paint bright orange polka dots at regular intervals around your property). But if you have a fence, no sign, and a gate in front of a path leading up to your front door, that is probably implied consent for entry to your property on the path from the gate to your front door.
That’s a lot to know, but now you know it.
Zachariah B. Parry is an attorney and founding partner at the law firm Parry & Pfau and is an adjunct professor who teaches torts, contracts, and Nevada practice and procedure for UNLV’s paralegal program. He can be reached at 702-912-4451 or [email protected]