My ex roommate is saying I stole her stuff since she never picke dit up once the lease was up

Full Question:

A person moved out of leased apartment and changed address even though paying remainder of lease and did not move belongings. The lease was up so I moved in August. I am now accused of theft for taking her belongings. She was gone for 3 months and came to get the items after lease was up!
02/11/2009   |   Category: Abandoned Property   |   State: Colorado   |   #15226


The answer will depend in part on whether the person was named on the lease as a roommate or was subletting and paying rent to you. If a person is named on a lease, the landlord named in the lease is the person rent is paid to. In a sublease relationship, the roommate isn't named in the lease, and the tenant named in the lease stands in the position of the "landlord" and the roommate is the lessee's "tenant" and pays rent to the lessee.

Generally, it is the landlord's duty to dispose of a former tenant's abandoned property. In Colorado, the disposition of abandoned property of a tenant will be goverened by local ordinances. I suggest calling the local police department for applicable rules. Typically, they require a notice to be sent to the tenant's last known address, with a deadline for retrieval before the items may be sold.

When a person who is not a landlord agrees to hold property for another, a bailment is created. When the person holding the property, called the bailee, is not being compensated, it is called a gratutous bailment and the bailee must use reasonable care to protect the property.

There are different types of bailments- "bailments for hire" in which the custodian (bailee) is paid, "constructive bailment" when the circumstances create an obligation upon the custodian to protect the goods, and "gratuitous bailment" in which there is no payment, but the bailee is still responsible. There is a lower standard of care imposed upon the bailee in a gratuitous bailment, and the parties may contract to hold the bailee free from liability in any bailment. As the law of bailments establishes a lower standard of care for the bailee in a gratuitous bailment agreement, such an agreement or receipt should indicate explicitly that the bailee is acting without compensation. When a bailment is for the exclusive benefit of the bailee, the bailee owes a duty of extraordinary care. If the bailment is for the mutual benefit of the bailee and bailor, the bailee owes a duty of ordinary care. A gratuitous bailee must use only slight care and is liable only for gross negligence. To create a bailment, the alleged bailee must have actual physical control with the intent to possess. Physical control and intent to possess will be interpreted according to the expectations of the parties. If a court thinks that liability would be unexpected or unfair, it can usually find that the defendant did not have “physical control” or “intent to possess.” For example, courts are more likely to find a bailment of a car exists in a garage with an attendant than in a park and lock garage.

In order to prove theft, criminal intent must be proven. The person accused must be shown to have had a wrongful intent to deprive another of property. Without proof of intent to deprive, no criminal act has occurred.

Ask Legal Question

Your Privacy is 100% Confidential!