Home Solicitations Take Center Stage In Consumer Awareness Effort

By Tamas Mondovics

To increase awareness and help consumers avoid scams and prevent crime, Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency turned its attention to the topic of home solicitation last month.

“Given the time of year, the topic, of course, is by no means out of place,” said, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) spokesperson Larry McKinnon.

Besides the usual knock on the door in order to sell, lease or rent of a consumer good or service, local supporters of political candidates for the upcoming election may also stop by for a brief chat.

The agency, emphasized that home solicitations in Hillsborough County account for a large number of consumer complaints each year, thus begs the need to understand what home soliciting actually mean.

“It is important for everyone to know what constitute soliciting and how to handle a person who may or my not be soliciting,” McKinnon said.

The official explanation by the agency reads that a  home solicitation is any sale, lease or rental of a consumer good or service with a purchase price that exceeds $25, including all interest, service charges, finance charges, postage, freight, insurance, and handling charges, and the sale is consummated in a place other than at the seller’s fixed establishment or business location.

“If a home solicitor knocks on the door and cannot show a county-issued permit, ask them to leave or call your local law enforcement agency,” said Kevin Jackson, of the County Consumer Protection Agency as the first line of defense against crime or scams.

In Hillsborough County, consumers can call the clerk’s recording office to get information about all the specific details on how to handle a home solicitor.

Bloomingdale Community Resource Deputy Curtis Warren, commented that to avoid problems or misunderstandings there are several steps that can be taken, including the posting of a  “no solicitation” sign on the door or the simple answer “I am not interested’, as well as letting a visitor know that someone is home.

“It’s a twofold matter,” he said. “You don’t always have to open the door, but letting them know that someone is home  may also prevent a crime.”

But McKinnon also cautioned as he mentioned that residents are well to remember that not everyone who comes to their door is trying to sell something, and that  a “No Soliciting” sign no matter how visible it is may not apply to all, such as those with political or religious purposes.

“In these cases a simple ‘I am not interested’ is usually enough,” McKinnon said.

McKinnon said that sadly, some homeowners take matters into their own hands or become angry or even violent with someone that knocked on their door.

“In these cases the homeowner ends up breaking the law not the person that knocked on the door,” he said. “In any case if you are not sure, if there is some suspicion of a crime, the best thing to do is to call law enforcement. But chasing people out of the neighborhood and threatening them may in fact get the homeowner on the wrong side o the law.”

For more information about home solicitation, please call the Clerk’s recording office at 813-276-8100 Ext. 4157.