If someone refuses to return your property is it theft?

If someone refuses to return your property is it theft?

If someone refuses to return your property, is it theft, and what can you do about it?. These are questions on which the law is clear. People are not always diligent enough to return borrowed items, and you have to chase them for it. Some explicitly tell you you’re not getting that property of yours back. What does the law say, and what are your options. Read on to know more.

If someone refuses to return your property is it theft?

It is not theft if someone refuses to return a property you willingly gave to them for whatever purpose. In general, theft involves taking property rightfully belonging to another person with the intent to deny them of it permanently.

If someone refuses to return your property, it is not theft if, from all indications, the property was willfully given to the person. However, the exception is when the person fraudulently acquired the property by making promises they intended not to honor from the onset, which will amount to theft.

How to get personal property back from someone

If someone refuses to return a property you willfully gave to them, you may not be able to press criminal charges depending on the circumstances. Still, civil processes exist to help you recover your property. There are several steps you can follow to retrieve your properties. These include:

READ ALSO:  How long can you be held without bond?

Written demand

A written demand is a letter demanding the person exercising wrongful lordship over your property to return it. This letter will serve your interest if they refuse to honor your requests. How this helps your case is simple; it serves as evidence of you following every reasonable opportunity to retrieve possession of your properties.

You can write a demand letter by yourself or have your lawyer draft one and serve the offending party in your stead. Usually, such letters contain a threat of a lawsuit should the alleged offender refuse to honor the demands.

A civil lawsuit for repossession

A civil lawsuit for repossession is a plea to the court to declare you the rightful owner and order the defender to return the property to you. This form of case is also known as a Replevin lawsuit.

Replevin definition

It is a legal process originating from the common law that allows a person to sue for the return of personal property in possession of a person who has no or little right to keep it. It is important to note that you must prove that the said property belongs to you.

Can police help retrieve personal belongings?

If your personal belongings remain with a partner or person, the police can help you retrieve them by providing escort services. It can occur when you cannot go for the properties yourself due to a possibility of an altercation or due to a restraining order.

However, if the items’ ownership is in dispute, the police cannot help you retrieve the items until the court settles ownership claims.

READ ALSO:  Signs your case will be dismissed 2023

Alternatively, you can ask the attorney of the other person to speak to their client for a convenient arrangement for you to have the personal belongings delivered at a place you can pick them up without coming into proximity with the person. You may also seek the court’s help to retrieve your personal belongings by filing a petition.

How long can someone leave their belongings on your property

Depending on the state you live in, it may range from 7days to as long as a year, after which specific state laws dictate how the property should be disposed of.

An abandoned personal property refers to property in which the owner has made a voluntary surrender of all rights or title, claim or possession, with the intent of relinquishing ownership, however, without transferring ownership to anyone else and never to return to claim any rights in the future or claim possession of the property.

For example, if a tenant leaves some properties in a room after quitting, the law allows the landlord to dispose of the items if their value is so meager that it won’t cover storage costs.

Some states require the landlord to write to the personal property owner if the location is known or publish in the local newspaper informing the owner to remove the items within the stipulated days. If the owner appears to claim their property, landlords may charge a fee to cover the storage, advertisement, and other associated costs incurred.

For items not exceeding a certain amount (e.g. $250 in Nebraska), Landlords are allowed to sell off such items after notifying owners. The landlord has to sell the abandoned property at a fair market price in a public sale, in which the landlord takes the amount that covers their cost of removal, sale, and storage after the allowed period expires.

READ ALSO:  Esq vs JD - Differences between an Esq and a JD

The landlord keeps the remaining amount after the sale and pays the same to the tenant upon written demand. Some states require the difference to be paid to the state or county treasury.

If someone refuses to return your property is it theft in UK

The laws in UK on theft are such that, a person keeping your property as if it’s their own and refusing to return it upon request, constitute theft.

According to the UK Theft Act of 1968, “a person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it….”

The act further defines appropriation as “Any assumption by a person of the rights of an owner amounts. This includes, where he has come by the property (innocently or not) without stealing it, any later assumption of a right to it by keeping or dealing with it as owner.”

This means, in the UK, if a person refuses to return your property after you have asked for it, they’re dishonestly appropriating it to themselves and this amounts to theft.


The answer to the question “If someone refuses to return your property, is it theft?” has been extensively covered in this article. Check your state law on the specifics on how to get personal property back from someone and guidelines for dealing with abandoned property.


Assault definition, degrees of assault and sentences
How often do Cops show up for traffic court?
Grand larceny – Definition, examples and sentences
California $950 theft law

The contents of this page are for informational purposes only and doesn’t constitute legal or financial advice. Read our terms of use for more

You May Also Like