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Many Canadians, at some point in the spring or summer, take a trip out to hit the local yard sales.

You browse through other people’s unwanted items, sifting through quirky little knick-knacks and, if you’re lucky, you’ll even dust off a sweet gem or two. These makeshift sales can also be a great opportunity for the community to come together and bond a little.

Once in a while though, someone comes along to ruin it for everyone.

This year that person seems to be Edmonton resident Matthew Peter, who’s been running his glorious yard sale since June. Which means, short of defying all logic, that his junk has been rotting away on a lawn in the pouring rain, winds and heat since you slapped on your first bikini this season.

And Peter is currently fighting to keep his door-crasher deals going right through winter.

You almost have to admire the guy, he’s really digging in his heels over what seems to be a needless cause. But after his neighbours complained relentlessly over what’s quickly become an eyesore, an Alberta court ordered Peter to clean up the property–which he ignored. Peter made an attempt to appeal the order, but it was upheld. Since the homeowner still hasn’t tidied up, the city is applying for a court injunction, which would allow a crew to clean up the property for him (a ruling on that is expected in the coming days).

Edmonton officials are arguing that Peter has turned his yard sale into a commercial enterprise, which he is running without a valid business license.

It begs the question: When does your yard sale become a store on your driveway under the law? Did Peter mess up as soon as it became a multi-day affair, or is it legally more obscure than that?

Well, because different cities have different bylaws, it’s a hard question to answer absolutely. But there are a few general rules you can use to keep yourself on the right side of the law.

  • Yard sales are meant to be a market for miscellaneous household and personal goods, not retail. In other words, don’t sell anything new (these aren’t meant to be profit centres, per se)
  • If you own a business, you can’t sell merchandise from that business at your yard sale
  • Many cities restrict how many yard sales a homeowner can have per year, so don’t be opening up shop every other week
  • Yard sale holders are also responsible for ensuring products “are safe and meet current regulatory requirements”

We also have more tips on how to have the perfect yard sale right here.

Just please, don’t do what Peter is doing. The guy’s in a heap of trouble.

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