Types of goods
Case study – Natalie's furniture
Natalie went to Queensland for a six-month work contract. She could not take all her furniture and whitegoods with her. She asked her friend, Rachel, if she could leave her bed, couch, dining table, chairs, washing machine and fridge with her until she returned to Sydney.
When Natalie returned to Sydney, Rachel told her she was not going to give the furniture back. Natalie is concerned that some of the goods may have been sold while she was away. Natalie wants her goods back.
Different laws apply to different situations.
If you are not sure what law applies to you, you should get legal advice.
The Uncollected Goods Act 1995 (NSW) covers:
- personal property, jewellery or furniture
- goods left behind in a tenancy, or
- goods left with a business for repairs.
Different laws apply to:
Property attached to land
If goods or property have become part of the land, they are called 'fixtures'. For example, a fence, water feature, or an established tree. They usually can't be recovered.
Sometimes even though a person doesn't own the goods, they may have a legal right to hold on to the goods until a sum of money is paid to them. This is called a 'lien'.
Some examples of when a person may have a lien include:
- a mechanic has a lien over a car until the repairs are paid
- a vet has a lien over a pet until the vet bills are paid
- a lawyer may keep files until a bill is paid.
Goods left in a storage facility
If your goods are stored in a storage facility, the Storage Liens Act 1935 (NSW) applies. The facility has a 'lien' (a right to detain your goods) until all outstanding fees and charges are paid.
If you pay any fees and charges owed under your storage agreement, you are entitled to demand your goods back.
If there are outstanding fees and charges, and you have not made arrangements to pay and collect your goods, the facility has a right to sell your goods by public auction as long as they follow the procedure under the Storage Liens Act 1935 (NSW).
If you and the storage facility disagree about the money owed for storing or disposing of your goods, you should get legal advice.
Property Recovery Orders in an Apprehended Violence Order (AV0) caseA Property Recovery Order allows the defendant or the victim to get their personal belongings from a property. The Court can make this order when an interim, provisional or final AVO is made.
For more information, see AVOs.
Disputes about property after a marriage or de facto relationship has ended
When a marriage or de facto relationship ends, the parties need to decide how to divide the property. Property includes assets owned individually or jointly with another person. Some examples of property include:
- the family home
- money held in a bank account
The Family Law Act 1975 covers these types of disputes and there are time limits for applying to the Court for orders about how the property is to be divided.
For more information, see Parenting, property, maintenance and child support.
Goods left with a pawnbroker
A pawnbroker lends money to a person on the condition that the goods are held as security until the loan, interest and charges are repaid. If this doesn't happen by the agreed period, the pawnbroker may sell the goods.
For more information, see Pawnbroking and second-hand dealers on the NSW Fair Trading website.
Animals left on a property to graze (known as 'agistment')
An agistment is where an owner of land allows another person's horse or cattle to graze or feed on their property in exchange for payment. These arrangements can be either written or verbal. Disputes often arise when agistment fees are not paid or if the agreement is breached.
There is a difference in the law between goods that have been stolen and goods that have not been returned. If a person takes the goods from another person without permission, those goods may be stolen. But if the goods are left with a person who refuses to give them back, the goods usually would not be considered 'stolen'.
If any of these situations apply to you, you should get legal advice.