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Abandoned goods

For a variety of reasons, items that clearly are not included in the contract (such as a car or personal items), may be left behind. The purchaser cannot obtain legal ownership of these items and should contact the vendor and insist that the items be removed. If this proves difficult it may be easiest to take the item and leave it with the vendor although advice should be first obtained.

If the vendor's address is unknown or there is no other way of forcing the vendor to collect the items it may be necessary to proceed using the provisions under the Unclaimed Goods Act 1987 (SA). Provided the goods should have been taken on the date of settlement, the purchaser must hold onto the items for three months. After this date, the goods may be sold, but if the cost of selling the goods would be more than their value, the goods may be disposed of by other means.

Depending on the value of the items, they may be sold or disposed of in one of the following ways:

  • value under $500 - sold or disposed of by any method
  • value $500 to $2 000 - sold by public auction or with the authority of the Court
  • value over $2000 - sold with the authority of the Court

Before conducting an auction to sell the goods, the person holding the goods must send a notice to both the owner and the Commissioner of Police . The owner must be given the opportunity to collect the goods although the purchaser can demand payment of any cost incurred and reasonable storage costs before releasing the goods. Any application to court is made to the Magistrates Court which can give permission for the goods to be disposed of as ordered by the Court. If the owner's whereabouts are unknown it will be necessary to advertise the auction and the court hearing date.

Once the goods have been disposed of any reasonable costs can be deducted from the proceeds and the balance will have to be paid to the owner or if that person's whereabouts are unknown, to the State Treasury.

If the goods are disposed of without following the procedures under the Act, the owner may have a claim against the purchaser. It is therefore important that people only proceed following the correct procedure. The Legal Services Commission has a free information sheet on Unclaimed Goods including copies of all the necessary forms.

This same procedure applies for any abandoned or unclaimed goods.

Abandoned goods  :  Last Revised: Thu Aug 29th 2013
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.