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Abandoned personal items at house I bought Washington

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  • Abandoned personal items at house I bought Washington

    I am new to this forum and had no luck finding out if this question has been answered already so I will have to ask it myself.

    I bought a house in Washington State 15 months ago. The previous owners left some property here with the agreement (oral) to pay $50.00 per month for the storage and electricity usage (they left a refriderator with food, a freezer with food, some bookcases and a small trailer that is used for hauling things). They told us to help ourselves to the food and to use the items as much as we wanted. Estimated value would be about $300.00 or $400.00 I think. All items are used.

    They paid once after 7 months but reduced it to $35.00, which I wasn't really very happy with. I have not heard from them for 8 months now and do not know how to find them. At what point does the property become mine to do what ever I want with (move, store, sell, donate, etc)? Thanks for your help.

  • #2
    Abandoned personal property

    I am starting to wonder if this forum in "dead" - - most of the posts in this section have been viewed but have zero replies. Is there somewhere else I should post my question with better luck of getting a response - - anyone know? Thanks.

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    • #3
      Do you have a current address for them? If so, I would send a certified letter and let them know that as of so and so date, you will be selling, throwing away, etc. the items. If you don't get a response, do what you will with the items. I would think that after 8 months, they would be yours.
      Amateurs built the Ark, Professionals built the Titanic

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      • #4
        Abandoned personal property

        THanks, do you have any legal background or info that would back up your comments? Common sense would say the stuff is mine after 8 months, I would think. However, I just want to be sure I am within the law and don't cause myself any expensive legal problems. I have seen this kind of thing on Judge Judy, etc, and was surprised at the onus on the person just holding onto someone else's stuff.

        I want to keep and use this stuff and don't want them coming back and saying it is theirs.

        Thanks for your response and your help!!

        p.s. i don't have any contact information for them.
        Last edited by ShelleyColumbo; 09-25-2007, 09:43 AM. Reason: left something out

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        • #5
          Well, common sense would be wrong.

          By agreeing to an arrangement whereby they would pay you to effectively store the items, you accepted what the law refers to as a bailment on the items. Generally, in order to end the bailment, you must give the bailor notice that you no longer wish to store the items.

          I would suggest that you do whatever is necessary to research their address and send a certified letter to that address (i.e., does the real estate agent have a forwarding adddress?). Otherwise, yes, the individuals can come back and ask for the property and could sue you for it. Whether they could succeed in a suit is not something anyone can predict, but you will be in a much better position if you provide them with notice.

          And, if anyone else reads this, this is why you should never accept a house that is not completely empty.
          I am not able to respond to private messages. Thanks!

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          • #6
            Abandoned Personal Property

            Yes, I was afraid that common sense wouldn't apply, since it doesn't seem to generally when it comes to the law. That is why I am trying to find out what the law is.

            Bailment - I saw something about that in Austrailia....it also applies here, from what you are saying...since our legal system stemmed from the same roots in England, I'm guessing.

            Anyway, the fact that they have not paid nor contacted me for 8 months - does that not somehow affect the arrangement, the deal? Am I just forever responsible for their property and they can come get it any time? Seems that there would be some type of time limitation on that. THen again, common sense is not a guide here, apparently. Also, there is nothing in writing. So, effectively, they have abandoned the property here for 8 months now.

            Thanks.

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            • #7
              You need to check local law, since laws on abadoned property are state-specific. The law will indicate what timeframe must transpire before you can assume that the property has been abandoned. If you haven't heard from them in 8 months, it's quite possible that you may never hear from them again and that they have well and truly abandoned the property. But, if you haven't followed the law of your state to a tee and they do come back to get the property at some point, you'll be in a much better position than if you haven't.
              I am not able to respond to private messages. Thanks!

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              • #8
                Abandoned Personal Property

                Thanks, Marketeer, for your advice. I have read the statute (or whatever it is called) and I am unclear on the time limitation. Here is the name and #:

                RCW 59.18.310
                Default in rent Abandonment Liability of tenant Landlord's remedies Sale of tenant's property by landlord.

                http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=59.18.310

                Can you see from this what the time limit would be? Thanks again.

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