Moving a sign do different location

Frank and Bruce
One idea popped in my mind.
I know of a situation where one of the Big Outdoor companies has a billboard which is disputed over with the land owner.
Land owner does not want the billboard on their property, billboard has been vacant for probably two years now if not more.
I am not sure if land owner has been receiving any payments but if they did not would this be considered abandoned property? What is the time frame to be considered an abandoned property? I know it probably varies from state to state, but in general what would be the time frame?
What I have in mind is that this particular city allows to move the billboard to another location, (but does not allow new ones) and I was thinking of buying it from land owner if it would be legally abandoned and erecting one on other site within the city.

What do you think?

Again, any situation like that should first be run by an attorney. There is a huge grey area regarding abandoned signs and who owns them. If you buy it from the landowner, and the sign company still asserts that it is theirs, you could pay your money and still end up in court. If there is a tear-down/build-one ordinance, then you know that the existing sign company is aware of that, and may be planning the same attack. Unless both parties agree in writing, you are always in danger buying “abandoned” signs.

I know I’m all my leases I have basically “structure remains property of my company”. If that’s in the lease, you have some work ahead of you. If the sign company does not pay on the lease, there is a breach of contract and the lease is void. This is where it gets sticky and like Frank said you will need to get an attorney involved. I think there is an opportunity here for a deal, you just need to make sure you cover all your bases, and before you make a purchase on the sign get your permits in line to move it if that’s something you will have to do.

Yes I thought about it after I have written it and had the same thoughts that this would be way to risky to get it from land owner as “abandoned” boards.

But what I am planing to do is to write to this Billboard Co. and ask them if they are interested in selling it to me while it is STILL on the premises for nominal charge (I’ll cover the cost of taking it down, it’s not a monopole so it should not be hard at all)
after confirming with zoning officer again that this policy is still in place and getting something in writing from the town/zoning office that once I purchase it I will be ALLOWED “move” the board to another place.

What I am hoping for is that this Billboard co will not be aware of this ordinance.


I like your new strategy better, but make sure that the landowner agrees that it belongs to the sign company and can be removed. Some landowners will take the position that it is their property, and you can’t get on their property without their permission to remove it, or they can call the police and have you arrested for trespassing.

As Bruce said, there may be a deal here, but you have to be sure and cover all your bases on a deal as complicated as this.

One more complication for you – the sign will have to have a valid permit to be counted in a program that allows you to tear one down and put one back up. Does the city count this sign as legally permitted still?

I am not sure if they count valid permits at all. When I spoke to zoning official it seemed that he was not even aware of state permits, my perception was that it was the billboards themselves that were the issue. But that’s another question for me to ask. Also from what I noticed is that I don’t think that cities/towns are aware of state DOT permits required for billboards.

Besides this point, I have one deal in the works right now where I am about to purchase 10x20 Steel billboard on a faster highway with little -to fair traffic count ( I don’t know the numbers) for $15K with permit but he does not have a signed ground lease and does not pay anything to landowner. I want to visit land owner and sign an agreement with them, 1st say hello and talk about the whole thing shortly and then and 2nd visit just show up and sign paperwork.
Any thoughts about this deal? Should I be asking for perpetual easement, or 99 year lease with no fee as it was earlier established?

Ok I just got traffic count which seems to be about 27,000 cars in 24 hour period.

Every billboard has to have a signed ground lease to have a right to be on a property. Before you buy the sign, make sure that you have an agreement in writing with the land owner. Otherwise, he can have you remove the sign immediately – or even sue you for past ground rent owed. The longer a ground lease you can get, the better.


Thank you for the answers,
I just have found out the real deal with this. The current billboard owner has not been paying ground rent to the land owner for 2-3 years.
Land owner will most likely agree to takeover and let me pay ground rent (yet to be determined, maybe $1000/year)
Owner is 82 years old and may die any moment or live another 5 - 10 years, who knows. What happens if owner dies and family takes over or the property is sold. What then, do I have a valid lease or it;s invalid and have to start a new one with new owner? Or should I have some kind of easement done and recorded to survive the new owner and family takeover or sale of the land (if this would even have any legal stands?)
What are your thoughts?