If you have some old junk that your garbage service won't take and you don't want to haul to the dump, can you legally leave it outside your home for someone to hopefully take away?

I recently cleaned out my shed and wound up with a broken old lawnmower, a stack of ant-infested flowerpots and a rusty fire pit that I needed to get rid of. Instead of bringing them to the dump, I thought I would just put them in front of my house with a sign that said "free". Surely, there would be someone who could find a use for these items. I figured it would be a great find for them, and save me the hassle of having to get rid of it.

A. Boris
A. Boris
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Should You Leave Free Items Out at the Curb?

After congratulating myself on figuring out a great solution, I was approached by a neighbor who commented on the items sitting out in my front yard. Although they didn't come out and say it, I could tell by their tone that they didn't approve. The freebies were arranged nicely, and I had even hosed them down and wiped them off to make them look more presentable.

I'm not sure if it was because they thought it was an eyesore or just the fact that I was turning my yard into some sort of free rummage sale that bugged them, but it made me second-guess my plan. I then wondered if what I was doing was even legal.

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Is it Legal to Leave Free Items on Your Front Lawn?

We consulted with Attorney Jonna Spilbor of Poughkeepsie who says that there is technically no law on the book that directly addresses leaving items on your lawn, statues in criminal law and property law make it perfectly legal for a property owner to leave an item in their yard with a "free" sign, inviting strangers to take it.

Criminal law only comes into play when someone trespasses onto your property and takes items without your permission. If you are leaving the times out for the express purpose of someone taking them, there is no crime. Property law comes into play when someone intentionally abandons the item, in the case of leaving it out on the curb and indicating that it is for free.

Some homeowners associations or communities may have rules regarding whether items can be put out in front of the home and for how long, but it is not a crime.

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Some Important Guidelines to Follow When Leaving Items Out on Your Lawn

 

While it's not against the law to leave items for free on your lawn, you should still be a good neighbor and show some courtesy to those who live on your street.

Experts say it's important to make it clear with a sign that the items are free, otherwise people may be reluctant to take them. It's also important to make sure the items are actually things that people may want. A broken couch with missing cushions sitting out in the rain isn't going anywhere and will only make your house look like a garbage dump.

In our case, we put the items on the curb over the weekend and waited until garbage day to see what would disappear. Luckily, everything except for a few plastic planters was picked up, so we just grabbed what was left over and threw it in the trash.

As long as you offer items with some sort of value to someone, have a plan for what to do if they don't get taken and aren't abandoning the property to sit on your lawn forever, you will quickly get rid of your items, make someone very happy and avoid ticking off the whole neighborhood. That's a win-win-win situation.

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