Getting Rid Of Someone Else’s Stuff

Getting Rid Of Someone Else’s Stuff

A common question I get goes something like this:  “My asshole ex roommate moved out of the house I own three months ago and left behind a bunch of stuff.  Can I thrown it away?  I’ve e-mailed him five times to get his stuff and he hasn’t yet.”

If you have someone else’s property in your possession, is it yours? It depends on why you have it and the relationship you have with that person.

Abandoned property is property in which the owner has given up all ownership rights. Abandoned property is fair game. You can throw it away, give it away, keep it or sell it. The sticky part is knowing whether it’s officially been “abandoned.”

Be sure to cover your bases. If your friend leaves a coat, or your former roommate leaves some furniture behind, do your best to handle it reasonably and document everything. Notifying the owner is probably the most important thing. Make a reasonable effort. Send notice to their home or last known address. Give a certain time frame – two weeks, for example. And explain that you will dispose of their stuff if you don’t hear from them by the deadline.

Lost property is different. You have a duty to try and return it. If your friend didn’t know they left their coat at your house, tell them. If you find a diamond ring on the ground, you can safely assume that it was lost rather than abandoned. Turning it in to the authorities is a safe bet.  There is no finders keepers law in Illinois, at least not without making an effort to find the right owner.

If the abandoned item is a car, then it’s a slightly different story. Ownership of a friend’s coat might be transferred to you if they abandon it and you have physical possession of it. But ownership of a car is by title. So, even if the car is abandoned and on your property, it’s technically not owned by you because you don’t have title to it. You can notify the police, who can authorize that it be towed. Towing companies usually have a process for handling it from there.

Another special considering is whether a contract or some agreement applies, such as for a storage facility or in a landlord-tenant situation.

If you stop paying rent but leave your property in a storage facility, the owner of the facility can usually sell your stuff in order to get the money they are owed. The law has specific requirements before they go ahead and sell your stuff, such as notifying the renter, giving a deadline and even specifics on how they can go about selling the stuff.

If you are a landlord, your safest bet is to file an eviction complaint with the court, even if you think the tenant has abandoned their personal property in a unit. If they come back and it turns out you guessed wrong, there could be problems for you.

In all of these situations, imagine the worst case scenario – that you get sued by the owner of the abandoned property or you get accused of theft. Keep this in mind when deciding what to do. Document everything, and don’t act too hastily.   But if you’ve been more than reasonable, throw it out, sell it, give it away, burn it, use it, etc.


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  • are any of you people actually living in chicago with a life? seriously, these are the worse stories from a city this big i've ever seen. i actually enjoy harassing yahoo more than this.

  • The grammar cop would like to point out that these are actually the "worst" stories you've seen. Thanks for reading.

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    I have yet to find, within the many articles I have read, the article that pertains to my situation. I had a rummage sale early spring and a gentleman I had been acquainted with had decided to put thing in it. Amongst those items was a box of depression glass. He decided to ultimately not sell the glass which has been in my garage since the early spring. He has told me three times since then he would be by to pick it up and has never shown up to pick it up. I have always made myself available to him on the days he said he would be here and would wait the entire day with no word from him. He has attempted to besmirch my name calling me a thief and drug abuser/dealer which is a fabrication in his delusioned mind. He has since "blocked" communication with me. (Personally I couldn't be happier) At which point does it become abandoned property?

  • In reply to Bryce Patrick:

    Can't say for certain, but it sounds like it already is. Might want to call the local police for advice and/or send a written communication that if it's not picked up within 14 days you will discard it. This isn't guaranteed advice that you won't get in trouble, but most likely keeps you safe. With the police it's possible in some communities that they'd take it for him or to him.

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    I've been trying to find something out but having a difficult time. So my mother was letting a friend stay at her house because he needed help and he helped around the house a little. Things got tense a few times, where the police were called and he eventually had to leave, there was an incident at her house where he head butted her and got arrested. Now, she has a restraining order and his stuff was supposed to get taken out, he did come once but still left a bunch of stuff, including a boat with no title. This happened in Sept of 2016 and his stuff is still here, but we're trying to get rid of it. Back during court, the lawyers talked about his stuff being moved, but a date wasn't set since it was considered a civil matter, however it was talked about. Currently she's trying to get the transcripts from the courthouse. My sister is a notary and she notarized an affidavit giving him a date to come get his stuff. We aren't sure where he is staying, but most likely with a family member, of course we have no idea for certain, however we know he's in contact with one of his sisters at least. So my question is, can we send a notarized letter to his sister's, and that with the transcripts help protect my mother in case he wants to sue? It's been over a year and we really just want to get his stuff off her property. He's pretty fluent in the law and has an amusing time getting away with stuff like this, I realize that last part can't be proven and is irrelevant to a judge, but this is getting tiring and we've given him, what seems to me, more than adequate time and have been more than reasonable. Would the law consider his property abandoned, or is there something else we can do in order to protect her?

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