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The information in this topic is aimed at typical situations where:
Case study – Natalie and her pet dog
Natalie went to Queensland for a six-month work contract. She could not take her pet dog, Charlie, with her. She asked her friend, Rachel, to look after her dog while she was gone.
When Natalie returned to Sydney, Rachel told her she was not going to give Charlie back. She said that Natalie had not looked after Charlie properly and left him for long periods alone. Rachel said that Charlie was better off with her. Natalie does not agree and wants Charlie back.
In particular situations, different laws apply and so it is important to get legal advice:
If goods or property have become part of the land, they are called 'fixtures'. For example, a fence, water feature, or an established tree may have become fixtures, and usually cannot 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:
If goods were left behind by a tenant on rented premises, the landlord or real estate agent must give correct notice to the tenant to collect their goods before they can be disposed of. Residential tenancy laws apply to these types of disputes. For more information, go to the Tenants Rights Factsheet.
When goods are left with a business for a specific purpose, for example, to be repaired or stored, these goods are held under a 'bailment'. This means that the business has temporary possession of the goods until they are collected by the owner.
Some examples of a bailment include:
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 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.
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.
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'. You should get legal advice if any of these situations apply to you.