Can I Get My Belongings from Someone Else's Home?

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There are many situations in which your property may be in the possession of another person. You may have visited someone overnight and left something behind. You may have broken up with a paramour. You may have been kicked out of the property by a roommate.

If you have attempted to contact the person in possession of your property to no avail, you may have to take legal action to repossess your property. The rules and procedures for this process vary by jurisdiction, so be sure that you follow the process available to you. You may have only a limited amount of time to recover your possessions.
Some of the procedures that different jurisdictions use for these scenarios are discussed below.

Civil Standby

This mechanism is available in cases in which an encounter may turn violent, aggressive or otherwise problematic. It usually consists of a sheriff or police officer accompanying the person who is wishing to reclaim property to the property. In some jurisdictions, the individual is instructed to stay near the property until an officer can be dispatched.

This mechanism is also used in instances in which a person is legally barred from having contact with another person and serves an exception to that ban. This process may be triggered when the defendantís attorney in a protective order case requests it so that the defendant can retrieve his or her necessary belongings or by calling the non-emergency number for the local law enforcement agency.

The process afforded in the jurisdiction may limit the amount of time that a person has to retrieve his or her belongings, such as 15 or 30 minutes. Often, the individual can bring a third party with him or her in order to speed up the process and to have an objective witness of the events.

Lawsuit Regarding Landlord Retention

States have very specific laws if the person in possession of your property is your former landlord. If the landlord does not follow the letter of the law very precisely, he or she may be liable for the value of the items lost as well as additional statutory penalties.
Some laws require the landlord to hold the former tenantís property for a short period of time, such as seven days. The law may or may not allow the landlord to charge storage fees for this period of time. The tenant has the statutory amount of time to recover his or her belongings. Additionally, such laws usually require strict notice requirements in which the landlord has to inform the tenant of his or her rights to possession of the property.

Some states and jurisdictions have specific petitions that allow landlord and tenant disputes to be heard at an expedited level. A judge reviews the petition and can order the landlord to follow the law and return the tenantís property to him or her.

Court Order

Another method of retrieving your personal property from a landlord or other individual is to get a court order that mandates the return of your belongings. One option is usually small claims court if the property is valued under a certain amount, usually $5,000.
In some jurisdictions, a tenant may be able to file a complaint for summary proceeding to recover personal property. Again, this option usually provides for an expedited process, usually within seven days from the date the complaint was legally served on the person in possession of the property.

Legal Assistance

Because the procedures of this process are different for each state, it is important that you seek legal counsel in your jurisdiction to learn about your rights.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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