If you're a real estate agent, you need to understand the laws on corporate advertising. If you have any other questions, please drop us an email.
What Local Law covers "home open" signs?
Real estate home open "pointer" signs are known under the Local Law as "portable direction signs" (PDS). There are very strict limits on their use to avoid creating a public nuisance.
All local government areas vary slightly. In Stirling, PDSs can only be displayed for the duration of the home open. They must be kept at least 2m from any sealed road ("thoroughfare").
The City of Stirling's Thoroughfares and Public Places Local Law 2009 sets out fines for agencies that place signs on public property outside home-open hours or in places where they create a hazard for any person using the thoroughfare.
The law requires agents to keep their signs out of any areas where they could distract drivers or pedestrians. This may include areas where pedestrians are crossing the road, where drivers are turning corners, approaching islands, negotiating pedestrian crossings or at roundabouts.
This is all set out in section 3.3 of the Local Law.
Is it corporate littering to place signs unlawfully?
Yes, the City of Stirling has powers to take action under the Litter Act (WA) 1979. This allows rangers to issue fines of up to $500 per offence for any company that litters. The fine for individuals is $200 per offence.
The fine increases to $2,000 per offence for any company (and $500 for individuals) that places hazardous litter on public property.
The higher fines for companies reflect the scale and impact of corporate littering.
What other powers does the City have?
"The City may impound any sign placed on a thoroughfare or in a public place, and the person responsible for placing it there may be liable for fines and/or prosecution under the City’s Local Laws and the Litter Act 1979 and Planning & Development Act 2005.
"If a sign is impounded and the owner wishes to reclaim the sign a fee may also be charged by the City for its return," the City's guidance states.
Would heavy fines solve the issue?
Of course! If there's no penalties, companies won't take their obligations seriously. This has been the case over recent years. It's now reached the point where veteran real estate agents are embarrassed by their own industry.
Some real estate agents have said the best approach would be for Stirling to treat roadside corflute signs as "litter that creates a public risk". This carries fines four times higher than general littering offences.
The local government has already used this tactic to deal with car tyres, fridges and batteries that were being dumped on public land.
Are companies paying contractors to place these signs?
Yes. Some real estate agents in the Stirling area are using third-party contractors to place their signs up on Friday afternoon and then taking them down after the weekend. They say this approach has been approved verbally by City of Stirling, even though it is a clear breach of the requirement to only have them up for the duration of the home open.
The City of Stirling has denied this is the case. It has advised local agents that it's an offence to place any signs on public property outside home open hours.
What new laws are being considered?
The City drafted changes to the Local Law in mid-2017. The changes were designed to tackle a surge in illegal "pointer signs" following complaints from local residents.
The proposed laws will have the opposite effect, however, by allowing signs to stay up for 24 hours at a time and to be placed within two metres of a road.
The City would essentially be giving up the powers it has under section 3.3 to tackle this problem.
This would basically allow City rangers to wash their hands of the problem. They would no longer have to respond to complaints (as signs would be allowed up all day, or all weekend for Sat/Sun home opens).
Under the proposed laws there would be no limit on the number of signs that could be put up for each listing!
Lawyers have also said this could pose a third-party public liability for councils and have flow-on consequences for their insurance premiums.
Can these counter-productive law changes be stopped?
YES! Many stakeholders (including real estate agents) have urged the City of Stirling to ditch its draft law changes.
The laws went out quietly to consultation in 2017. Residents and local businesses (including real estate agencies) were not aware of the changes to PDS signage laws. The consultation was open for 45 days and closed without a single submission.
Under the the Local Government Act, the laws could now be passed with a majority vote from Council.
The laws were due to be discussed in a Council meeting in early May 2018. This has been pushed back for three months in the face of community concerns.
The City of Stirling is "reviewing the issue", according to Trevor Holland, the City of Stirling's director of community development.
Real estate agents have encouraged the City to conduct a public forum and industry roundtables to gauge the community's views on the issue prior to proposing any reforms.
Davey, Realmark Coastal, West Coast Real Estate and Peard Realty all said there needed to be further consultation before the local law was changed.
The industry and community consensus is that the laws should be tightened, not loosened.
What do real estate agents say?
"The existing laws are good ... The problem lies with the lack of any consequences for agencies that don't respect the law. I wouldn't support any moves to relax the rules further. It'll just compound the ridiculous problem we have." — Les Lindsay, Peard Real Estate
"There should be a limit on the number you can put up, the distance from the house, and they must be legitimate directional signage. Better still, keep them within the property boundary like other real estate advertising signs." — Toryn Crocker, West Coast Real Estate
"No sales representative wants or likes to put out home-open signs ... I don’t believe our sales team would be upset if pointer signs were completely banned as it is time-consuming and expensive for them." — Andrew Davey, Davey Real Estate
"It just needs to be clear, fair and equitable for everybody. We need to know what the standards are and why." — Jenny Hughes, Realmark Coastal