YORK, Pa. — You've probably seen the "We Buy Houses" signs that pop up on phone and utility poles all over the country. Commonly called "bandit signs," it's illegal to post them on public property in York City.
Dennis Kunkle, a local resident and recent retiree, began pulling the signs down during his weekly community organization cleaning walks.
"The next day they'd be back," he said.
Frustrated by what he called "eyesores," Kunkle posted photos of all the signs he had pulled down on Fixing York PA, a York community Facebook group. The post hit a nerve, quickly garnering more than 500 comments both in favor and opposed to the signs.
The people behind the signs are often taking advantage of others, according to government officials. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement in Aug. 2019, "These scammers are attempting to exploit Pennsylvanians in vulnerable financial situations."
Bandit sign buyers often pay below market value for homes.
"They're not paying huge sums of money for these houses," Kunkle said. "They sell them to somebody else who flips them."
"It's kind of a scam," said Victor Gorden, a York resident who said the signs annoyed him. "Just be real about it. I mean if you're going to run a business, it's cool, but also be real about it."
It's not against the law to buy or sell houses, but the signs' location is illegal in York, whose city ordinance bans placing advertisements on telegraph, telephone, electric light poles, awnings or any public property. Fines for violating the ordinance range from $10 to $600.
FOX43's Harri Leigh called some of the numbers found on bandit signs in York. Some were out of service; one led to the voice mail of 1-800-WILL-PAY. An employee at the CASH NOW PA call center did not answer a question regarding the legality of their signs and would not provide contact information for a manager.
FOX43 then reached out to the companies via email. 1-800-WILL-PAY did not respond. Ray Abboud, founder and president of CASH NOW PA, called back and said his company had not posted any signage in York since 2015 and no longer bought houses in the city.
The York Department of Public Works does pull down the signs, but a person can only be charged with a violation if they're seen putting one up.