Abandoned Property Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Abandoned Property, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Abandoned Property?

n. under common property law abandoned property is/are item(s) which are apparently given up by the owner(s) and he/she/they do not intend to return to claim it back. There is unwritten but apparent surrender of legal right over that property. Common law of property allows anyone who first finds the item to own it.Though some items (like wrecked ships) become state’s property.

History and Meaning of Abandoned Property

Abandoned property refers to any item or asset that appears to be given up by the owner, who does not intend to reclaim it. Property law considers that there is an implied surrender of legal rights over the asset or item, and any person who finds it becomes the legal owner, except for some cases, such as wrecked ships, which become the property of the state. The concept of abandoned property has emerged as an essential legal concept in recent times as a result of globalization and the displacement of people due to armed conflicts and natural disasters.

Examples of Abandoned Property

  1. A homeowner leaves their house vacant and stops paying property taxes, resulting in the property being seized by the government.
  2. A tenant moves out of an apartment, leaving furniture and personal belongings behind, and fails to claim them within a reasonable period.
  3. A shipping company goes bankrupt and abandons a cargo ship and its contents at a port, leaving it unclaimed.

Legal Terms Similar to Abandoned Property

  1. Escheat: a legal process by which the government takes over the property of someone who dies without leaving a will or legal heirs.
  2. Adverse possession: a legal principle that allows someone to claim ownership of a property without the consent of the owner if they have occupied it for a specified period.
  3. Lost property: refers to property that the owner has involuntarily parted with and cannot locate despite a reasonable search.