Bakersfield officials have hard time fighting illegal ‘we buy houses’ signs


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) – “We buy houses” signs are scattered all over Bakersfield. Many residents find them to be annoying, however Bakersfield Code Enforcement said the signs pose more problems than just a neighborhood nuisance.

Code Enforcement officials say they’ve recently been flooded with calls about a particular kind of “we buy houses” sign involving a derogatory emoji.

Code Enforcement supervisor Bill Owens said residents are irate over the signs, telling him they make an offensive suggestion about the homes in the area. Owens also said the signs are illegal when they’re tacked onto a utility pole. The City Council approved a $1,000 citation just last year.

“Through the administrative process, we have to be able to identify an individual or an entity that’s responsible for placing the signs,” Owens said.

Although the policy was enacted a year ago, the city has struggled to catch offenders in the act. They recently cited a suspected offender, however the case was dismissed just last week. Owens said they had the wrong guy and are now aggressively pursuing other leads.

“It’s very difficult,” Owens said. “Typically, the phone numbers return to an answering service, which historically don’t disclose who their customer is that they are answering the phone for, so it makes it very difficult to be able to nail down a particular individual to take enforcement action against.”

Owens is turning to the community for help, urging residents to collect evidence when possible. He said license plate numbers are the most helpful in trying to track down offenders. Otherwise, it’s difficult to place blame.

“It’s been very taxing on staff,” Owens said. “I wish we had staff every day, but we really don’t. It’s complaint-driven. I encourage anyone within the city, if the signs are in your neighborhood, by all means to call the Code Enforcement office.”

Owens would not comment on the intricate details of how his department attempts to locate offenders but said the process is very time consuming and involves a lot of research with no guaranteed promise of results.

Eyewitness News tried to get into contact with some of the companies behind the signs. None of them returned our calls. We were able to get ahold of one company, but officials there refused to speak with us.

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