The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Policy for Selling Surplus Property

Reference Number: MTAS-763
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: September 11, 2017
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Every city will occasionally find itself in possession of certain equipment, machinery, or materials that it no longer needs or wants. In most cases, the surplus property involves materials or equipment that have become obsolete or unused over the years, and the city decides it is time to unload these useless items, sell them to the public, and put the proceeds from the sale to good use.

A well-managed municipality will have policies and procedures in place to assure that the sale of surplus property is conducted in an orderly, profitable, and ethically transparent manner. Failure to enact such policies – and to have them firmly in place prior to putting any surplus property up for sale – invites problems that may have unpleasant results for the city and its officers.

This MORe section concerns itself specifically with the disposal of surplus items of equipment and materials. It does not pertain to the sale of surplus real estate that a municipality may want to sell. The strategies for selling surplus equipment differ from those involving the sale of real estate – and case law is very clear that when it comes to real estate, cities can sell it to whomever they wish, provided it is in the city’s interest.

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