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When It Comes To Donation Bins, Property Managers Not Going To 'Play This Cat And Mouse Game Anymore'

(Photo by Fight the Blight Arizona)
A new state law requires donation bin operators to obtain the property owner's permission before placing them on private property like shopping centers.

Some donation bins could soon begin disappearing from shopping centers across Arizona. A new state law that recently took effect lays out the rules for where those large metal boxes are allowed. 

Joel Moyes is state director of the International Council of Shopping Centers. “We as shopping center owners and property managers aren’t going to sit idly by and play this cat and mouse game anymore,” he said. 

Across Maricopa County, Moyes says there are about 8,000 bins set up to collect clothing, shoes and other items

“And the vast majority are not clearly marked,” he said. “They’re not operated in a first class manner and I would guess the large majority of those bins are for profit organizations that give the perception of being a charity.”

Moyes pushed for the new law which requires a bin operator to get the property owner’s signed, notarized permission and clearly mark the bin with contact information. If they fail to comply, the law allows property owners to remove the bins. 

The law was needed, Moyes said, because too many people were placing bins on private property without the owner’s permission and not caring how they looked. If landlords removed them, he said some bin operators would threaten to sue.

“Literally they would say to us, ‘Hey, I had permission, and you just towed my property. You owe me $7,000 for the bin,’ he said. “It’s absolutely bizarre, I know, and it’s counter-intuitive, but that’s exactly what was happening.” 

Moyes said the law will not negatively impact nonprofit groups that operate donation bins because ”they already have clear markings, they have contact information on the bin and 99 percent of the time they have gone through the proper channels to secure permission to have bins on the property.”

Late last year, Arizona Attorney Genera Mark Brnovich released a tip sheet " How to Spot Fake Charity Donation Bins," which included the following:

  • Research and education are the most important ways to protect yourself. Before dropping off clothing or a household item donation, look closely at the name of the company and perform online research to see if the donated goods are sold for profit. Use websites like Charity Navigator, Guidestar, Charity Watch, and the Better Business Bureau to research a charity. These websites are good tools to find out how much of your donation is actually going to a charitable cause.
  • If a charity isn’t listed on a monitoring website like the ones above, research the company’s tax forms online. These forms are publicly available and will show how much money a charity actually donates.
  • Look for labeling or writing on the donation bins indicating where the donated items go and if they are resold for profit.
  • Any legitimate donation bin should have contact information on the bin. Before you donate, contact the charity and ask questions.
  • Ask for a tax receipt, this will give you the tax deduction you are entitled to and will help establish the legitimacy of the donation bin owner.
As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.