Can I Charge the Fiance Company Storage for an Abandoned Mobile Home on My Property?

Full Question:

I own property in which there exist a Mobile home, the person living in the home had been paying lot rent. I find out that he moved away and left the home. This mobile home has been on the property at least 10 years, maybe longer. This is also the only mobile home on the property, it was there when I purchased the land which I use for another business. I agreed he could stay just pay lot rent which he did and does not owe any money to me. The mobile home does not belong to me, it is abandon and he owes $26 grand to the mortgage company. The home is also in a place that moving it will very difficult. I want to charge the mortgage company storage fees. What do you suggest?
08/17/2011   |   Category: Abandoned Property   |   State: South Carolina   |   #25343


The answer will depend on whether they hold the title to the home or not. If they are named as the owner, it is possible to send them a notice requiring them to retrieve the property within a certain period or else it will be deemed abandoned and storage charges will accrue in he meantime. Typically when a person fails to pick up property from a person holding the items temporarily, the holder will send a notice stating that after a stated time period, the item will be deemed abandoned and subject to sale or other disposal. A copy of the notice should be kept for the holder's own records. We suggest calling the local police department, as local areas have abandoned property laws that vary by local area.

When a person who is not a landlord agrees to hold property for another, a bailment is created. 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.

Please see the following SC statute:

§ 27-40-740. Landlord's lien; distress proceeding.
(a) A contractual lien or contractual security interest on behalf of the landlord in the tenant's household goods is not enforceable unless perfected before the effective date of this chapter.
(b) A landlord may enforce collection of rent by distress only pursuant to Chapter 39, Title 27; however, the tenant may raise defenses to the issuance of a distress warrant pursuant to the provisions of this chapter or the rental agreement and may take advantage of the property exemptions found in § 15-41-30.