To combat the clutter and chaos of bandit signs, lawmakers in Austin are ready to send a message to companies using them. Texas state Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, reintroduced a bill proposing harsher fines for already illegal bandit signs.
Bandit signs are inexpensive, poster-size signs which are illegally placed on public property or in the right-of-way. These advertising signs are usually used by real estate developers, for information on garage sales and predatory loans. Although signs by political candidates are legal, they need to be removed after election day.
Although a bill making bandit signs illegal passed in 2007, that has not stopped the signs from being a popular tool for advertising. Anyone who has seen a Houston street can attest to the fact.
To combat the cost and chaos of bandit signs, officials say, is to toughen penalties and add businesses on the signs to the list of those who can be fined. Miles had previously introduced a bill in 2021 to make these changes in the state legislature, but the bill ran out of time.
Under the current statute, the fine for placing bandit signs is $500 to $1,000. Miles’ bill, Senate Bill 190, scales the fines. The first offense is a $1,000 fine, the second offense a $2,500 fine and the third offense and subsequent violations a $5,000 fine. The bill would also allow penalties against businesses advertised on the signs.
“This bill increases the civil penalty for bandit signs on not only the person who physically places the sign but also those who are advertising on them,” said Miles in an interview with the Houston Chronicle. “This bill targets the big businesses running these illegal advertisements, not small businesses.”
The City of Houston spends nearly $300,000 a year cleaning up the signs, making them a costly problem for the city. “Sign Rangers,” Houston’s dedicated crew, removes 30,000 signs a year, in addition to numerous signs being taken down by community volunteers and other municipal workers.
“The city of Houston spends thousands of dollars a month cleaning up these signs. This is a big and costly problem for local cities. This bill would strengthen the current law, raise the fines for offenses, with the goal of deterring repeat offenders who are able to pay the original penalty as a cost of doing business,” said Miles.
According to the office of the Harris County Attorney, these signs are a “public nuisance,” as signs nailed to posts can be harmful to a driver’s line of vision and signs along esplanades clutter the narrow strips of grass between traffic lanes.
“SB 190 would strengthen the current law, raise the fines for offenses, with the goal of deterring repeat offenders who are able to pay the original penalty as a ‘cost of doing business,” said Miles.
An identical bill, HB 1863, is working its way through the House, authored by Houston-area Rep. Shawn Thierry, where the bill has been referred to the Transportation Committee.
The bill has passed the Senate but has yet to get out of the House Committee.
“I am confident this time around we will be able to get this bill out of both chambers and on the governor’s desk at the end of session,” said Miles.