Q: My next door neighbours have sold their property, and a sold sign has been posted for a long period of time. Is there any law in the District prohibiting such a sign?
The specific answer to your question can be found in the Title VII Chapter 10 of the District of Columbia Code (legally referred to as 7.1001).
This law says that no sign relating to the sale of a house shall be located on the sidewalk or parking area in front of the house. However, one sign may, with the written consent of the owner, be placed on any lot, piece or parcel of land abutting on a street, or attached to the exterior of any building fronting on the street.
The Mayor is authorized to use police authority to require the removal of any sign or advertisement in violation of this act, and the land owner and the real estate agent can be prosecuted in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for violating this act. The court can impose fines ranging from $5 to $25. One of the members of the Real Estate Commission for the District of Columbia has informed me that the commission frowns on these types of violations. But he candidly admitted that the city would never prosecute this type of violation.
If the sign disturbs you, make sure the owner of the property next door has given approval to have it posted. If you determine that the sign is on public property, contact your council member and theMayor's office to file your complaint.
One note of caution, however. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that a law prohibiting the advertising of real estate violated the First Amendment. While that case may be different from yours, I really doubt that you want to go all the way to the Supreme Court with your problem.
You might want to call the real estate agent and point out that the sign is distracting and is causing ill will among the neighbours. This may get an immediate response.
Correction: In last week's column dealing with the condominium association, it was reported that in the District of Columbia "there is no automatic cloud on title "by virtue of the association Men. This should have read "Where is an automatic cloud on title."
Benny L. Kass is a Washington attorney. Write him in care of the real estate section, The Washington Post, 1150 11th St. NW, Washington 20071.