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My daughter and SIL are in the process of a divorce. He will

My daughter and SIL are...
My daughter and SIL are in the process of a divorce. He will be getting possession of a large, heavy piece of manufacturing equipment that is currently in our garage. He doesn't know how to use the equipment; it was purchased for my daughter to use to start a business. Right after the equipment was purchased, my daughter discovered her husband was living an alternative lifestyle on the side, and she filed for divorce. She has not started the business because he keeps saying he is going to demand the equipment in the divorce and she didn't want to leave customers high and dry if he gets it.

She has agreed he can have that piece of equipment if he'll just sign the divorce papers. He has verbally agreed and now they're just waiting for the paperwork to be finished.

The equipment is currently stored in the garage of the house daughter and SIL lived in together. I purchased the home to avoid foreclosure, and my son is now renting it from us and living there. Therefore, the equipment is stored on MY property.

This equipment is very big, heavy and expensive. He will have a difficult time selling it because of the expense and the economy, and I know he merely assumes he can leave it in the garage until it sells. Once the divorce is final and it has become his property, can I send him a contract charging him storage fees? I thought I'd send it registered mail, return receipt with a caveat that not returning the contract signed will indicate his acceptance of the contract, and give him a certain number of days to remove it before the fees begin. Is that legal? If he doesn't pay, then can I put a lein on the equipment so I get my storage fees if/when he sells it (because I am pretty sure he isn't going to pay the fees otherwise)?
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Answered in 13 minutes by:
9/13/2013
Barrister
Barrister, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 39,512
Experience: 17 yrs practice, Civil, Criminal, Domestic, Realtor, Landlord 26 yrs
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Hello and welcome! My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try my level best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can.
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Once the divorce is final and it has become his property, can I send him a contract charging him storage fees?
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As soon as the divorce is finalized, if he is awarded the machine, then unless he comes and gets it immediately, then what has happened is a legal "bailment" has been created with you being the bailee.
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A bailment is when one party, the bailor, leaves personal property in the possession of the bailee with permission or consent. The bailor can return and take possession of the property at any time before the bailee terminates the bailment and the property is considered abandoned. A bailee can terminate an involuntary bailment by giving notice to the bailor that they need to come get the property or it will be considered abandoned and disposed of.

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In order to legally terminate the bailment, you have to give written notice to the bailor at their last known address. I would send it certified mail as well as first class mail in case they have a forwarding address with the post office. State that you are terminating the bailment and the bailor has 7 days to remove the property or you will consider it abandoned and dispose of it. On day 8 if it is still there, you can dispose of it as abandoned.

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In the alternative, you could send a written contract that states that you will agree to not terminate the bailment and agree to store the machine for $XXX per month as a storage fee.

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Then the ball is in the SIL's court as to whether to come get it, pay you the storage fee, or run the risk of losing it as abandoned property. I would suggest that daughter get some set date from the judge as to when he has to come and get it once he is awarded it so you have a fixed date to work with initially. Then you can agree to store it for rent if you choose to.

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Thanks

Barrister

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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

If he doesn't pick up the property within the assigned time, you said "On day 8 if it is still there, you can dispose of it as abandoned."


Does that mean I could give it to my daughter if he doesn't come get it by the assigned time or pay storage fees? Or do I have to truly dispose of it?


 


Am I actually the bailee in this situation? I have never agreed to allow him to leave the equipment on my property. It is there now, and he merely assumes he will be able to leave it on my property until he sells it. Does it make any difference that I have not agreed to his leaving the machine on my property? (He ALSO assumes my son will automatically and for no charge be there to show the machine to potential buyers and to teach them how to use the machine before they buy it.)


 


 

Does that mean I could give it to my daughter if he doesn't come get it by the assigned time or pay storage fees? Or do I have to truly dispose of it?

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Yes, when the property becomes abandoned, you can do whatever you want with it. You can sell it, give it away, salvage it, whatever you want. Abandoned property becomes the legal property of the first person to take possession of it.

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Now from a practical perspective, if you give him a set amount of notice (and 7 days was just an example, you can give whatever notice you want as long as it is reasonable) and he doesn't come and pick it up, then I would still move it somewhere else so you can tell him that you disposed of it and it is no longer at the old location if he tries to come and take it later.

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Am I actually the bailee in this situation?

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Yes, if you haven't demanded that it be removed and allowed it to remain on your property, then you are a legal bailee. You can become an involuntary bailee just by not forcing someone to remove their property. The duty of care is lower, but you are still a bailee.

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Thanks

Barrister

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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

You stated: then I would still move it somewhere else so you can tell him that you disposed of it and it is no longer at the old location if he tries to come and take it later.


Hmmmm...In what scenario do you envision his "coming and taking it later"? It's BIG and extremely heavy, so moving it would be very difficult.


 


He could just show up at the door, but he would have to have several helpers and a very large truck to get it out of the garage and haul it elsewhere.


 


And, if he called the police to say we were keeping property he'd been awarded in the divorce, I'd have the paperwork saying that it's been abandoned. Wouldn't that protect me?


 


I can see him attempting to drive us crazy via harrassment if he doesn't get it, but I'd think we'd have the legal edge there as well, wouldn't we?

In what scenario do you envision his "coming and taking it later"? It's BIG and extremely heavy, so moving it would be very difficult.
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He drives by and talks to son or someone else in the house who is unaware the he has abandoned it by not taking possession of it within the time frame you set for it. He then backs up a truck or trailer with a winch and winches it up into the truck or trailer and is then on his way.
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And, if he called the police to say we were keeping property he'd been awarded in the divorce, I'd have the paperwork saying that it's been abandoned. Wouldn't that protect me?

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Yes, the police wouldn't get involved with this, they would tell him it is a civil matter and to take it up in court.

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As long as you give him a reasonable time to pick it up and remove it, I don't envision any scenario where he can legally re-take possession of it later after you have formally terminated the bailment and the property is abandoned. The law doesn't force you to hold and store someone else's personal property indefinitely...

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Thanks

Barrister

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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

Last question...would any legalities change if daughter told him he could store it there...without having my permission?

Well, if it is daughter's house, then she can give him permission to store it there. But since it is your house, you have full legal control over what personal property you allow to be stored there (or not). She has no legal right to give anyone permission to store anything on your property.
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Thanks
Barrister
Barrister
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

Thank you very much. You've been VERY helpful. I really appreciate your expertise!

You are very welcome. Glad to help.
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All the best to you and yours..
Barrister
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